Darkness

November 3, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Darkness surrounds me.

And cold.

And emptiness.

I lay in this void not knowing how long I have lain here, and in the initial grogginess of my awakening I know not why I am here. I turn my gaze from side to side, but can see nothing in the enveloping blackness. I can sense nothing – no sound, no light, no scent – beyond the feel of the smooth stone on which I am resting, and a constant pressure upon the entirety of my being.

I feel the coldness of the rock on which I lay seep into my being, and trace a finger across its surface. Delicate swirling patterns – almost too fine to be felt – whirl in the rock beneath my thawing fingertips, like an arcane language I am unable to discern. After a moment, spurred on by my frigid isolation, I begin to crawl forwards. In this darkness, I of course cannot know where I am going, though I feel an irresistible urge to press forward – as if I am being summoned by some far off voices united in a silent song. My progress is painful – my limbs weak through lack of use…

Just how long have I slept?

The pressure clinging to every inch of my form presses against me, weighs down upon me as if from many leagues above, and I am unable to move with any speed. Slowly – maybe as slowly as a glacier cutting through a valley – I edge ever forward towards my goal, though I still cannot know what it is.

I have an age to ponder my situation – to bat the cobwebs in my mind away from the memories underneath – though still I cannot. It is difficult to move, and difficult to think. I vaguely recollect images of the world above, of the stars shining in the vast, endless aether of the night’s sky. The memories feel so distant to me now. And just as I am on the cusp of penetrating the fog in my mind, my hand falls upon a small collection of stones. I pause here – startled by the sudden intrusion on the perfect plane I have been traversing – before tentatively reaching out ahead of me. Giddy euphoria envelops me as my hand brushes against the craggy surface of the wall in-front of me.

Finally.

Finally I have something on which to anchor myself. Something solid that lets me know there is an end, a periphery to this darkness in which I find myself. I stand, grasping the rough-hewn rock in my hand until my fingers ache. Now I have hold of something tangible, I do not wish to return to the emptiness behind me.

I take a moment to compose myself, and begin my ascent.

While the rocks beneath my fingers feel rough to the touch, they are slick, and I find myself digging my nails into each handhold to gain purchase. Though less than I once was, before I fell into the darkness, I still have the strength to heave my body up. I stare sightlessly above me, into the void, and climb.

Relentlessly.

I strive upward for what feels like an age until the blackness surrounding me begins to recede, and the cold falls away like a discarded robe. The blackness becomes a deep grey, then a hint of blue-green creeps into my vision. And still I climb.

The pressure on my skin lessens with each surge upwards, and I am able to register changes in light around me more and more. I can see the soapy, greenish-black rock to which I cling, and I begin to experience sounds again. There’s a rhythmic, slow churning surrounding me, almost like the heartbeat of the world.

Upwards I strive, ever upwards, towards the light above. I notice tiny creatures all around me. Though moving with more speed now the pressure is abating, I still move terribly slowly and they wheel, glide, dip, and weave joyously before me. I do not deign to imagine what such an insignificant intellect would think upon beholding me, though their movements bely deference, bordering on worship. I look into their bulging, unblinking eyes and see many emotions – Love and longing as they move towards me, fear and loathing as they move aside.

I continue rising towards the dazzling blue above me – can almost taste the air of the surface-world above. The greyish-green figures surge upwards alongside me and we all break the surface of the waves in unison.

The winds and the spray blast away the last vestiges of amnesia in my mind, and my purpose is as clear as the waters lapping at my shins. I feel the heat and the light of the tiny yellow star above upon my back, and flex my dreadful wings wide to catch its warmth. I snatch a few of my servants from the waves with claw and tentacle and feast on them. Even in pain and death, their song to me holds adoration and awe.

Long have I slept in the dark, cold, empty R’lyeh.

Now I am awake, and I hunger.

Credit To – Sue

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Trick-Or-Treat

October 31, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Trick or treating was something I always loved as a kid. It’s something that I was too old for, being twenty-five is something that easily puts a damper on childish festivities, and being pregnant makes it even more difficult to join in on the fun. There aren’t many happy families that take kindly to an adult wearing a vampire costume showing up on their doorstep to beg for candy, with an obvious baby-bump to boot. The next year would be different because I’d be taking my pride and joy around the block, but that year, I had to deal being too grown up for trick-or-treating, just as I had every year since I turned sixteen. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t dress up or that I wouldn’t be roaming the streets after dark. It just means that I wouldn’t be going from house to house in search of delicious treats.

That year, I dressed up like a vampire. I thought it would be a little funny because of my large stomach. I was six months along, but I was showing pretty a lot. I guess I ate a little too much for my own good or something, but that was okay. I was eating for two. I decided to wear a tighter black dress with spider fishnet leggings. I had on a Morticia-style wig and donned a pair of fangs behind blood-red lips with pride. I didn’t have money for a costume, so this was all stuff I found in my closet from years before. Maybe that’s a statement of how much I love Halloween.

Either way, I decided I would carry-out the age old tradition of passing out candy before my midnight stroll. Being outside in the open air of the witching hour was always something that I found enthralling about Halloween. It was as if the night held a hint of magic that I wasn’t allowed to forget and didn’t want to. It was intoxicating and I was intent on keeping both traditions, cultural and personal, alive. I had a big bowl of candy waiting for the kiddies and my costume on almost an hour before anyone even showed up.

I passed the time waiting on the little ones by watching old horror movies. I had a set of movies all picked out, from “The Blob” to “The Amityville Horror”. Every time I heard a knock at the door, I hit pause and jumped up as fast as any pregnant lady could. I was always happy to rush to the door, grab my bowl of treats, and greet the little guys and ghouls at my doorstep. The kids that came by were just so cute. I saw princesses, power rangers, witches, other vampire kin, and even a tiny baby in the most adorable pumpkin costume. It was marvelous to see all the other Halloween-lovers.

As the sky descended into darkness, I became more and more excited. It was getting so close to the time that I could take my walk. The pieces of candy left in my bowl had dwindled so much that the plastic bottom of the Tupperware was visible and the trick-or-treaters were starting to get become less and less frequent. At 11:30pm, I hadn’t heard the door in a while and my last movie was nearly over.

Easing myself up, I started to stretch. It wouldn’t be so bad if I went out a little early. With a sigh, I was ready to end the first tradition, one wordlessly passed down from adult to grown child over the years, and begin the one I always enjoyed the most. It was time to walk out into the night and soak in some of the magic in the air. As I went for my keys, I was startled by a knock at my door.

My hand went to my chest and I laughed softly at myself as I walked over and took up my bowl of candy. I really didn’t need the rest of it but I still grabbed a couple pieces and set them on my table before opening the door. Outside, there was an elderly woman and a very small, thin child. The woman had her white hair tucked back in a rigid bun. She had more wrinkles than a shar-pei puppy and brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. She was a big lady, but she wore an almost elegant, yet simple blue dress that hung all the way down to her sandaled feet. The child was a little unnerving to look at. Her hair was brown and matted in areas with something dark red, almost as if it was matted with blood. It had to be a wig. It was so thick and long. The matts in it seemed coarse and impossibly large. She had on an old-fashioned nightgown that was tattered around its seams and smudged with dirt. It was a great costume. In fact, it was the most elaborate costume I had seen all night.

I grinned at her, exposing my vampiric fangs, and said, “Well hello my pretties! You’re just in time for some treats on this night of trickery!”

My spiel made the old lady smile, but I didn’t hear a peep from the girl. I was about to lean down and allow her to take some candy from my bowl. I guessed she was just shy and I wasn’t about to make her stick around if she didn’t want to. However, before I could do so, the old lady said to the girl, “Say trick-or-treat to the nice lady.”

After a moment of silence, I shrugged more to myself than anyone else. In the kindest tone I had, I told the girl, “It’s okay. I know what it’s like to be shy. This can be pretty scary, huh? I’ll tell you what, I have about fifteen pieces or more of candy left in my bowl. If you open up your bag and tell me thank you before you go, you can have them all.”

I intended to give this little girl as much of the candy as she wanted that was left in my bowl to begin with, but it was obvious that her grandmother wanted her to talk. I want to give the little girl a nice Halloween but I didn’t want to step on her Grandmother’s toes either. Even though I couldn’t see her face under that mess of matted hair, I was certain there was a sweet child beneath it. If she was willing to put that much effort into her costume, she was almost like a kindred spirit. I knew in my heart that she deserved a wonderful Halloween. I really hoped I could help. Being shy and trick-or-treating can be very taxing.

She lifted her sack and held it open. It was small as if made of a large, folded blue plaid handkerchief. There were already a couple pieces of candy in it, but not many. It struck me as odd because a little girl like her had to have been trick-or-treating for a while. As I tilted the bowl toward the opening, I heard a tiny whisper say, “Thank you.”

After dumping the contents of my bowl into her bag, I smiled at her. I got my thank you, no matter how quietly. The woman smiled back at me and put a hand on the little girl’s shoulder. She guided her away toward the street so that they could disappear into the night. I stepped back inside with the bowl and set it on my table. I had a warm feeling inside my heart, because I knew I had to have done something good for her.

I took my time gathering my keys and my cell phone. I was giving those two time to get some distance. I liked them but I wanted to walk alone and uninterrupted by others. It was just going to be me and my unborn baby, enjoying the night of Halloween in its last few moments of the year. I was excited when I left my home and locked the door behind me. As I wandered down the street, in the opposite direction than what I saw the lady go with the child, I took in a big breath of cool night air. I meandered down the twisting streets with my hand idly resting on the curve of my belly. I found myself doing that more and more as the pregnancy progressed. The more aware I was of my baby growing inside me, the more and more anxious I was to meet him or her. I could hardly wait to share this walk with my child the next year. For that year, he or she, I chose to wait to learn the gender, would just have to be cradled in my stomach.

Eventually, I came across a road with one lonely street lamp. The yellow glow shining through the darkness was actually a little creepy, but in the spirit of the holiday, I had to check it out. I slowly made my way towards it, enjoying the ambience of the cool night air and the silence of the nearing midnight hour, until I saw a figure standing in the light. It took a moment, but I suddenly realized it was that girl from before. That hair was matted in her face and her dress looked dirty and tattered. There was no way it could be anyone but her. The sight of her stopped me in my tracks.

Should I go talk to her? Where was her grandmother? What was she doing all the way over here? I decided I had to help her. Anything less would be wrong and I knew it, but there was something about this situation that sent a chill up my spine. Despite my discomfort, I approached her. I didn’t say a word until I reached the edge of the light. For a moment, she just stood there, facing me in silence. I had my hand pressed against my stomach and she had her fingers wrapped tightly around the top of her small, blue bag.

I cleared my throat and asked, “What are you doing out here all by yourself? Do you need some help?”

My heart raced as I waited for a response. Without a sound, she took a step forward. When I didn’t move she took another step. I was about to repeat my question when she took a flurry of little steps in my direction. The movements never revealed her face. It merely made her hair and dress sway as if pressed upon by a gentle breeze. The more I looked at her hair, the more the matts looked real. The areas with the bloody substance looked gooey and dark. They glistened like a fresh wound. It was strange. Her costume was so elaborate but she still wouldn’t talk. I heard her bare feet on the sidewalk before I even looked down to see that she wasn’t wearing any shoes. This girl was so odd, but I was intent on helping her. Why was she out there all alone?

“Little girl?” I asked, hearing a slight quiver in my own voice as I spoke. “Do you need help?”
Her hand shot out and landed on my stomach. It was unusually cold, as if she were pressing an ice cube to my body. I gasped and nearly took a step back but I was frozen in place, as if I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. Finally, she lifted her head. That hair plastered against the contours of her face so that I could make out the indentions of eyes and the small slope of a nose. Her bag dropped to the ground and I heard the candy spill out along the cement as I stared down at her. It was hard to breath. I started to feel dizzy. My knees began to sink towards the ground.

She lifted her hand and abruptly pulled her hair to the side. All I could see was her dark brown eyes in that moment. Those eyes were so intense that I couldn’t look away. She seemed to be pleading with me. There was so much sadness in that gaze that I felt tears streaming out of the corner of my eyes before I even knew I was crying. The world around them began to fade away to darkness until there was absolutely nothing. It was like I closed my eyes and it all went away.

I don’t know how long I was out, but when I awoke, I looked around. I was laying on the ground with candy strewn out all around me. My head was sore but my biggest worry was the dull pain I felt in my stomach. I had fallen and a pain like that couldn’t be ignored. I fumbled around for my phone without getting up. I didn’t want to do anything that might harm my baby. I had to be cautious. As I dialed for an ambulance, I looked around for the little girl and couldn’t find her anywhere.

A few hours later, I was in a hospital bed in the emergency room. I had been rushed there to get checked out. So far, all I knew was that I had a knot on the back of my head and a bruise on my rump. I had a blood test, a scan or two, and an ultrasound done, none of which I had heard any news on yet. I was getting frustrated and even more worried as time passed. It seemed to take ages, but a doctor eventually found their way to the foot of the bed.

He smiled at me and said, “Ms. Anderson, I’m happy to tell you that everything is fine. Your bruises should heal up nicely, you don’t have a concussion, and there’s nothing wrong with your baby. I do have news though. The reason we’ve been doing so many tests is because the ultrasound technician thought she heard two heartbeats. We didn’t want to alarm you further until we knew, but ma’am, you’re having twins. Congrats!”
With that big goofy smile, he didn’t even wait for me to respond. He left me there to deal with the news, saying that a nurse would be in to release me soon. I put a hand to my belly and couldn’t believe there were two of them in there. Why hadn’t anyone caught that before? How long would it have taken for them to catch on that I had twins if I hadn’t had that altercation with the little girl? Everything I could remember about her was really confusing. I could only guess that she pushed me or that I passed out for some reason. Nothing made sense anymore.

As I tried to take it all in, a nurse walked into the room. I looked up and saw that old woman from before, only in light blue scrubs. She gave me a weary smile and approached my bedside. The world around me seemed to waver and I began to feel dizzy again. It was a good thing I was laying down because I think I would’ve fallen over if it wasn’t for that. Were they sure I didn’t have a concussion?

She came to me and put a soft, warm hand on my stomach. In a gentle tone she told me, “Don’t be scared. There is nothing wrong with the little girl you carry now. She’ll be a sister to your son and I’m sure you’ll love them both dearly. That girl only knew sorrow and agony in her short life. You are her chance to try again. Feel free to rejoice.”

The dizziness I was feeling began to fade. I felt myself shake it off as I heard a new voice tell me, “Okay, Ms. Anderson, let’s get that IV out and you can go home.”

I looked up to see a young, brunette nurse with a chart in her hands at the end of the bed. The old woman was gone but I could still feel residual heat from her hand on my stomach. I was so astounded that I couldn’t say a word. The nurse didn’t seem to mind. She got the IV out swiftly and showed me to the front desk.

Even as I filled out papers and signed forms, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. I was in a daze. It wasn’t until I started asking the receptionist about talking to the older nurse that was in my room that it finally hit me. The old woman said I was pregnant with a boy and a girl. She was clearly referring to the little girl from before. How was that possible? Where had she gone? I couldn’t find anyone that knew who I was talking about and I eventually called a ride home before they re-admitted me for further inspection.

Just three months later, I gave birth to two healthy babies. My family was elated to have twins brought into the family. Their father created more distance by disappearing to his mother’s house an entire state away. I was fine with that. He still had to pay child support. I had my family. I had my little boy, with his sky blue eyes and his bald head. I had my little girl that came out with eyes as dark as the Earth and enough fuzzy brown hair to be the talk of the town. I never forgot about that night of trickery in which she found me. I guess I got a treat after all.

Credit To – Nixie B. Vilda

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Tinnitus

October 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The Journal of Dr. Edwin King
————————————–
Journal Entry 01
Day: 1
Time: 0700 hours

It’s fascinating, really, how far technology has come. It’s been just over a day and I already find myself gazing in awe upon the distant majesty of our planet Earth’s moon from the port windows in the hull. The rest of the crew tease me for my tourist-like fascination with the shimmering nebulae and deep blackness through which our vessel swims for they have made similar voyages, crawling across the rings of our known universe, countless times before. However, I believe that no amount of further training at the astronaut facility could have prepared me to glimpse the eons quite like this. For I am merely a man of science, field biology research to be specific, and I have never ventured so far as to question the contents of deep space until recent discoveries by more sophisticated branches of scientific study brought those contents to my doorstep and ironically, now I to its.

You see, within the subterranean ocean layer of Uranus’ largest moon, Titania, a miraculous organism (or rather the corpse of one) was recovered by means of an automatic probe. While organic life sprouting from within the mantles of a variety of moons and planets within our solar system is nothing novel at this point in mankind’s explorations, this particular specimen has left our greatest minds puzzled and obsessed. My reasons for never involving myself in the expeditions to gather such specimens as shriveled plant life and micro bacteria from reaches of space consist of insufficient funding as well as a general disinterest; nothing could be found within those gaseous giants which could not be scooped up from the bottom of a darkened trench somewhere or plucked from the summit of a mountain until now.

While most of the information surrounding this organism is classified, I am no ragamuffin to the scientific community, as I was chosen by name for this study. However, I should not flatter myself, as ‘study’ merely means gathering a living specimen with which more information can be gathered and my participation was requested undoubtedly due to my reputation as more of a rough and tumble spelunker than a desk-worker; I have wrestled with my fair share of anacondas so I’m not too frightened of this thing. Then again, I have only had the opportunity to view this ‘thing’ through picture and video format and even still it was found by our probe deceased with minuscule traces of organic life still active. It’s a sort of worm-like creature; gelatinous and pale purple like a large, vibrant leech or slug. One of its most remarkable traits is its lack of sight and smell which is clearly reflective of its natural habitat which is these underground oceans in which only sound and sensation can guide such an organism as this. I’ve seen similar creatures such as Axolotl and the Mexican Tetra, both of which adapted to live deep within lightless caves with remarkable sustainability and specialization; such evolutionary parallels astound me and I find myself quivering with anticipation at the opportunity to view such an alien yet familiar ecosystem so far from our verdant planet.

The true marvel lies not in the organism’s environment however, but in the organism itself. For even in death, this creature secretes a minute amount of potent, clear liquid, just enough to fill a small pipette. The liquid is not corrosive, nor organic, more like a chemical release that must be some sort of defense mechanism, mating ritual, or self-sustaining fluid and thus testing on small rodents commenced with alarming results which brought biologists such as I and my singular, designated partner on the expedition, Dr. Dwight Howard, into the picture. The testing period was brief, as the fluid samples were sparse and too dissimilar to any compound our chemists could reproduce within the confines of our Earthly laboratories. However, results were achieved, and rather unnerving ones at that. Even topical exposure of the fluid secretions would induce a slow-acting state depression in the bodies of lab mice, declining all bodily activity until it reaches an absolutely catatonic if not technically “dead” state at the end of three days. Further testing with the remaining samples would show that all bodily functions in the rodents would slowly cease to function with only vague signs of struggle from the subject. It is however unknown whether this fluid simply functions as a sedative to the typical nervous system or if it is indeed lethal and intended more as a venom, produced by the organism for defensive or hunting purposes.

My mind is a whirl with images of spiders paralyzing their prey for the painstaking feeding process, leeches and mosquitoes administering anesthetic so their hosts don’t notice their gorging, and venomous caterpillars threatening creatures many times their size, all in this alien setting which no living man has yet step foot in. We will be pioneers, Howard and I, along with our three companions piloting the ship and taking every precaution in entering the moon’s mantle; Kurt MacReady, Carl Bairnes, and Julia Willard. They’re a rather polite bunch, and they’re all respected astronauts who have been in the business since NASA was shut down back in the early 2000s, but many times I feel as if Mrs. Willard is the only professional aboard this ship. She’s a very striking woman, even when wearing the standard-issue, orange jumpsuit which the pilots always wear. She is tall, with frizzy black hair tied up atop her head, ebony skin, and deep green eyes overshadowed by a stern yet understanding brow which never fails to reassure me that she’s here to do her job without an ounce of nonsense.

Kurt and Carl on the other hand seem rather unamused to be taking the trip to Titania, as they say compared to the likes of Mars, or any of the moons of Jupiter, Titania is just another “Frozen little rock,” which they evidently do not have the patience for. Mr. Kurt MacReady is an oddly gruff character, sporting a bearded thicket upon his prominent chin and a rat’s nest of short, burgundy hair. He smells of whiskey and does not particularly look at anyone with an expression other than vaguely hazy, but he has a firm handshake and took us off the ground without any issues so I’m inclined to place my trust in his training.

Mr. Carl Bairnes however, I have no doubts in. His viridian jumpsuit is just as decorated with medals as his face is with scars; I would be excited to ask more about how each mark of achievement was earned, be it of flesh or silver. He has a small tuft of black hair atop his head and his bronze flesh is riddled with protruding veins and defined musculature however…his expression truly lets you down. His silhouette is one of some great, Native American monolith of a man whereas his eyes suggest nothing more than uninteresting vacancy; it’s as if he’s constantly distracted by some invisible fly fluttering about the room. Mrs. Willard on the other hand seems interested in the more remote moons and chiefly, in the organism itself which the other pilots seem to ignore for the most part, thinking it just another organic scrap dragged back by Earth’s many probes coming and going by the month.

Dr. Howard is rather intriguing despite how introverted he seems. He’s a tall, gangly thing who’s shockingly thin with prominent cheekbones and what seems like a perpetual frown accompanied by a skeptical, arched eyebrow which rarely falters. His skin is pale in contrast with a black dress shirt which he enjoys sporting when not forced to wear his jumpsuit…which is also black. He’s a bit eclectic, but he’s very intelligent; despite appearing wholly disinterested in the crew and the expedition itself, whenever our small talk wanders to the organism which has brought us together, he becomes very animated in vocalizing his findings which seem to perpetuate as the hours go by.

We’re still close enough to Earth to receive a communication feed which Dr. Howard seems to indulge in most of the time as he demands constant updates on the status of the current tests so he may know what to look for. So far, both he and all of Earth’s finest minds are not completely sure what to make of this anomalous creature, making progress only through suspicion and hypothesis. I should enjoy this time however; my role does not quite begin until we reach the planet itself at which point I will be conducting the act of tracking down and gathering a live specimen, and thus I have plenty of days ahead of me which will consist of stargazing and reminiscing so I expect to be writing again soon within the next day or so.

One more thing, just something that has been bothering me lately. Though I do not consider myself an anxious person, and I have never been one to turn down an opportunity to further the cause of modern science at risk of my own health, there’s something that Kurt said over our first lunch together. I had expressed gleeful curiosity at the concept of being the first to even experience how this creature interacts with human beings, if at all and he responded with what I can only describe as superstitious-sounding bitterness, he said, “I respect your enthusiasm, but we’re just the next in what will probably be a long queue of guinea pigs. Those dead rats at the facility were like the first men to drink anthrax, we’re merely giving it another try to affirm it was the poison that killed him.” I’ve never honestly had reason to doubt the decisions of my higher-ups because if they have any definite goal, it’s profit. Money in my field, however, stems from innovation and I have never encountered any issues with seeking innovation outside of a few nasty spider bites and sleepless nights in Mexico. Perhaps Mr. MacReady is not a man who’s in it for the experience, but then again I can’t shake the feeling that he may have a point. It is rather strange that we were shipped off to this distant, unexplored moon with only minor animal testing having preceded the expedition, though I’d be willing to attribute that to a budgeted time frame.

Will update soon with any further information from Earth and/or my crew mates.

– King

Journal Entry 02
Day: 3
Time: 2200 hours

We’re coming upon the fourth day of our exhibition and the hours are already beginning to bleed into one another as the pale dot of Jupiter looms unblinking within the inky sea ahead of us. Despite my pained desire to revel in my fascination in the great beyond, I have forfeited the notion that this particular group can be engaged socially; I guess I came just a few decades too late to this whole space business. For when I was a child, digging up worms in my backyard, the final frontier seemed to me like the domain of the unwavering ambitious and unmistakably wealthy, neither of which I identified with at the time. Yet as I topically breeze through the extensive scientific journals published within the last century about extraterrestrial life sent from back home, I can reluctantly admit that biology is no longer subjective of Earth and there are countless ecosystems unexplored among these gaseous giants.

I must thank Houston, however for supplying me with some form of reading material for unlike my crew mates, I’m not particularly accustomed to such prolonged exposure to…plastic. How I long to plunge my boots into some warm, marsh water and feel the thick, unfiltered air weighing comfortably within my lungs but for now I have a task ahead of me and I must make do with the information feed while it is still an available resource. You see, Houston has warned us that upon passing to the dark side of Jupiter, we will have extended beyond the reach of our furthest satellites, effectively cutting off any communication with Earth and its databases. While I can confidently say that the majority of my applicable knowledge will be readily available regardless of written resource, Dr. Howard seems to be taking the situation rather severely; he’s spent most of the past three days buried in his monitors or conference calls, ensuring that not a single stone is left face down when he reaches Titania.

While I’m mostly feigning busywork to seem at least slightly useful in this time of anticipation, I have learned quite a few interesting things about what organic life has been found on the likes of Mars and Saturn. Specimens have ranged from fragile microbes, alive for mere minutes before dissolving ferociously to vaguely plant-like, prokaryotic matter which crumbles into dust when exposed to oxygen but they all seem to retain similar characteristics; chemical reactions which seem inexplicable yet similar to various processes found within our planet’s atmosphere. For example, one Dr. Percival Burroughs wrote a rather dull yet undeniably informative journal exploring the interactions of a strange, organic “metal” found within the mantle of Saturn with human skin cells. Extensive experimentation beginning with swabs of skin cells and concluding ethically with active exposure to the flesh of a living human consistently displayed a violent reaction similar to some kind of hyper-accelerated lead poisoning. Now I could not tell you what use mankind would have with a rock which can wreak prolonged mental destruction upon those in contact with it, but I do hope we can manage to keep it out of the hands of the military.

It’s fascinating, really, how unknown and perplexing the substance of these alien matters can be while simultaneously mirroring effects and interactions which we can actively observe in nature. It’s got me thinking more and more about what this mysterious organism could be reflective of in our familiar environment and what it could indicate about what we’re bound to find within the depths of Titania. Dr. Howard has affirmed that further monitoring of the mice exposed to the organism’s secretions back on Earth have shown gradually decaying vital signs and general stagnation. There are countless parallels to be drawn in the face of the systematic organ failure or whatever it can be classified as, (Howard is unwilling to accept any of my theories as plausible without conclusive test results) but in my studies I have encountered one puzzlingly similar creature; the black widow spider. Its paralytic venom swiftly overtakes the body of its prey to prepare it for consumption and when introduced to the bloodstream of something far larger than it (a human), localized paralysis, extreme pain, and even death are all possibilities. While it is a frightening prospect that we may be chasing some sort of extraterrestrial killer leech, the suggestion is merely incipient and as of right now we do not know nearly enough about the current test subjects to make any surefire conclusions about the effects of the organism’s fluid.

In fact I am curious about what sort of ecosystem would facilitate a predatory “slug” which utilizes paralytic venoms to capture or immobilize prey. Few aquatic organisms rely on venoms or poisonous secretions for obvious reasons of fluids dissipating in water, so what is this creature’s function? Is it a hunter or perhaps it IS a defense mechanism, produced within the body of this otherwise hapless little alien to prevent its untimely consumption by some larger, more formidable creature which lurks within the subterranean depths of Titania. If there’s anything I learned diving in Australia, it’s that there’s always a bigger fish and I’m quivering with excitement just imagining what Megalodons may lurk past that grayish spot which is Jupiter, slowly approaching upon the indefinite horizon.

Mrs. Willard has just given us two hours before we must report to the hull for a crew meeting, and I’ll be glad to share my theories with the rest of the crew so long as Dr. Howard’s continued contact with Houston does not discredit my hypotheses. I will return with the verdict of the team and any additional resources I can manage to squeeze from Earth’s data banks before we detach ourselves from humanity altogether and venture bravely into the unknown as many have before us. Jupiter is clearly in sight now, and I’d better move to the hull before Bairnes becomes cross with me again; he’s a military man and does not have time for nonsense.

– King

Journal Entry 03
Day: 4
Time: 1900 hours

To say in short, it has been a maddening day. It began as I spoke of earlier, with a crew meeting to map out our course of action, and it concluded mere minutes ago with a raucous and meaningless quarrel between Mr. Bairnes, Dr. Howard, and myself. You see when I proposed my theory of a predatory presence beneath the crust of Titania, I was met with rather rude and unexpected sneering from Dr. Howard. He pointed out that nothing has been recovered from beyond Earth’s atmosphere outside of dead plant matter, vaguely metallic compounds, and bacteria, all of which are to be expected from such barren environments. He refuted that even if these, “slimes” (as he referred to them) were remotely worth researching, even Uranus has not shown signs of a developed ecosystem so why should its moons? I retorted that perhaps the sophistication of the organism suggests a more sophisticated environment; that there are more similarities than differences between this creature and those of Earth. However, when I began to reference my materials and experience, I was met with only further jest from Mr. Bairnes as he began laughing about, “Giant spiders and caterpillars.” (A truly mature little menagerie I have found here). And though I assured him that if my hypothesis proved true, it would be no laughing matter and that additional measures would have to be taken to ensure the safety of the crew and the expedition, none could take me seriously from thence forth. Now granted, my ideas may seem a bit drastic seeing as we have uncovered little from even the largest of planets in our solar system, but is the danger not even worth CONSIDERING?

Anyway, it took Mrs. Willard nothing more than a sharp glare to silence the two, followed by an apology for the actions of Bairnes as they apparently have a history of working with one another and Dr. Howard merely returned to his quiet demeanor of smug disinterest. Looking across the small, polymer plastic table around which our party was gathered, I realized that hers was the only face I could see patience in; Bairnes and Howard looked like sour-faced children whom had just been scolded by a teacher, and MacReady had still said nothing, too busy picking his teeth with his fingernails. (I cannot tell whether MacReady is genuinely unqualified or merely odd). Yet even still, Mrs. Willard enlightened me to the fact that Bairnes would be supplying what little protection we would need while it was to be expected of Dr. Howard and me to work together in ensuring a safe procedure. She told us to ‘get along’ to which Dr. Howard was visibly detested to.

I protested that this WAS me ensuring a safe procedure; that the prospect of potentially dangerous organisms must be addressed, but Howard was swift in rebuking me once more. We disputed the lack of evidence in what I can recall as an ungraceful manner; shouting and wagging fingers at one another to no coherent end. It was only until we received an urgent transmission from Earth about the progress of the experiments, to which Howard very proudly accepted. However, after about 10 minutes of annoyed mannerisms and a generally irritable tone of voice, he returned to the table with unnerving yet unsurprising news (to me): all subjects exposed to the organism in testing became unresponsive as of the night before with no vital signs to be recorded.

Now I’m not a competitive man by any means, and thus I was not preparing to deliver any vengeful, “I-told-you-so.” Instead I’m shaken by the implications of this recent development and what it may suggest as far as my theories about this alien ecosystem; not only are the secretions paralytic but they are lethal upon prolonged exposure. Dr. Howard’s defeat was not long lived however, as he immediately began viciously covering his tracks with excuses and accusations of which I was unwilling to pay any attention to. For not only were his shrill babblings bothersome, they paled in comparison to the realization that we were en route to a planet inhabited by dangerous creatures with insufficient time as well as materials to formulate an antidote to their venom.

Houston has ensured us that we should be safe as long as we remain within our suits and take all necessary precautions in our decent into the mantle of Titania yet these final words, repeated by Dr. Howard as he ended the transmission, echoed emptily throughout the hull. The room fell eerily quiet and the entire table shifted to look at me expectantly as if I were retaining some valuable information from them. I had a hard time vocalizing any response to the announcement, as the reality of the situation took me slightly off guard and I found myself stuttering quite ravenously until Mr. MacReady interrupted me, speaking for perhaps the second time since I met him. To me, Kurt MacReady from the beginning seemed more like an action movie protagonist than an astronaut and the manner in which he addressed the crew did nothing less than affirm my impressions. He let a heavy fist fall to the table with a startling thud as he barked at us to stop babbling and keep on task; that we have been given a very simple mission which should not be complicated by a little bit of extraterrestrial ooze. We were all taken aback by his assertiveness and not a word was uttered as he lumbered back to the cockpit having sufficiently roused us from our brief state of panic.

Dr. Howard and Mr. Bairnes simultaneously stood to leave, spitting their individual businesses they must attend to before pausing briefly and looking out towards the port windows. Mrs. Willard had already risen from her seat and was standing before the windows, gazing out into the blackness which was slowly becoming thicker around our ship as the blazing sunlight dimmed. The three of us approached the window as well, stricken with a silent hopelessness as we watched the gargantuan giant Jupiter slowly eclipse the sun, marking the twilight of our communication with Houston and anyone for that matter. The tension and concern flowed throughout the darkened hull like a thin fog, rolling in around our ankles; just gentle enough to be invisible yet cold enough for all to notice.

I have made it a goal of mine to continue work with what information we have, I’m sure Dr. Howard will do the same. Dangerous or not, we’re headed for Titania and we shall return with enough specimen to revolutionize the fields of chemistry and biology forever. Yet there’s still a chill crawling up my spine from time to time, despite all of my experience with myriads of terrific creatures. There’s still a growing blot of uncertainty upon this page of my mind that ignores my knowledge, casts my intuition aside, and makes light of my PhD. This is no Black Widow, this is no Mamba, no Killer Bee, no this is nothing remotely as dangerous, in fact its venom takes many days to become lethal…but perhaps it’s just that; that I have never seen anything like it that disturbs me so.

I plan on updating in a couple of days as soon as Uranus is in sight for I should have a better understanding of the situation when I’m given some time to make more sober deductions. I know I should attempt to share my work with Dr. Howard and perhaps come to some conclusion about how best to avoid unnecessary contact with the organism, but at the moment I’m still rather prickly about the whole situation. Nevertheless, it must be done for the sake of the expedition.

Perhaps I’ll bring him a drink or fourteen.

– King

Journal Entry 04
Day: 6
Time: 1800 hours

The past two days have been exhilarating to say the least and with all the note-taking I have done, my carpals are screaming at me to give this blasted journal another day or two’s rest. I can’t however; there’s far too much that’s been accomplished between myself and Dr. Howard since we resolved our differences over wine and a handful of Xanax yesterday. The man has a rainbow of vibrant capsules and bright pill bottles strewn out across his desk, most of which I recognized as benign anti-anxiety meds like Valium and Xanax but also more intense names such as Vicodin and Prozac. He apologized for his actions as well as the disastrous mess, explaining that he probably was not the best chemist to be sent up for this mission due to his severe anxiety and brutal migraines, but despite that he’s trying his best to carry out his duties. I had not considered these factors before and I felt rather guilty having responded so aggressively to his abrasiveness the day before; I apologized myself. At that point we concluded to exchange our research and come up with a more applicable course of action to which I was met with puzzlingly slim findings from Dr. Howard’s part. Apparently the last transmission from Houston marked a dead end for his research, as scientists from Earth had given him nothing but inconclusive data and vague hypotheses about the chemical compound in the small time he had in contact with them.

Though the organism is alien and its secretions are a compound never before encountered by man, I still found it rather difficult to believe that all of Earth’s best minds could not sort out at least some classification for it. I brought my doubts to the table and Howard responded with great distaste, claiming that he had been hounding Houston since day one in attempts to coax the flow of information along which seemed to be stopped up by something; it seemed strange that Houston would not give them even their slightest suspicions if it would mean assisting in their mission. Anyway, in our current situation of radio silence, we are forced to work with what little knowledge we have acquired on our own in order to ensure the safety of the crew and the expedition.

All Howard knew for sure was that it must be a neurotoxin which can attack the central nervous system directly by means of topical exposure. This would relate it to something along the lines of a vastly expedited form of metal poisoning which I found rather interesting, bringing up how common of a theme that seems to be among extraterrestrial matter. However, Howard refuted that conclusion on the grounds that the neurotoxins found on Saturn and the like produced a variety of other symptoms to suggest the relation to our understanding of metals, while this organism’s fluids create a slow and nearly symptomless decline in the subject’s condition. “This organism is far more sophisticated than those inanimate samples; it’s specialized and remarkably effective in its function whatever that may be,” he claimed. I realized now why he was so quick to dismiss my theories that night at our crew meeting, they seemed so obvious yet so blatantly overlooked by Houston to the point where they must have already been tested and disproved.

I posed my theory once more, “There must be a purpose however. When it’s a geological compound, its chemical properties are merely a reflection of its environment but when it’s a living organism, there’s almost always a function to such properties. Where there is an ecosystem there are bound to be predators and prey; we just have to find out which one our little alien is.” He was reluctant at first in accepting my proposed direction of study, but in time we both submitted to the inevitabilities of scant information and the vibrant, bluish-green dot awaiting our approach on the inky horizon. There is a mere 40 hours resting between us and Uranus, and another 5 will place us on the surface of its largest moon and our destination, Titania.

We began concocting a plan of action revolving around the possibility that the organism is either a threatening predator which we must not provoke, or merely a dangerous creature which we must avoid physical contact with altogether. Thinking back to what information Houston could not supply us with, we determined that the only distinction to be made would be whether or not the fluid is corrosive or if it has some delivery system within the organism. If the organism does in fact have a means of “attacking” its prey with its venom then it could easily be marked as a predator and dealt with by means of luring it into some kind of trap. However, if it is corrosive or only effective when introduced directly into the bloodstream, it will be clear that the organism has no means of utilizing the venom in an aggressive manner, rather it would be used as a defensive measure to fend off predators. If we found the latter to be true, then our only task would be to wear fully protective suits when leaving the ship to acquire a live specimen. It may just be a chore finding it within the subterranean waters if it is prone to hiding from potential predators.

We concluded our session of brainstorming and preparations with a rather satisfying consensus, achieved with such little real data on the subject. It gives me hope in fact, hope for the future when such different fields of study can come together in the name of science and the furthering of collective knowledge. It’s uplifting too; despite how vague our hypotheses may be, we still accumulated a more sound pool of theory and information than was supplied to us by all the scientific minds back at Houston. It’s so elementary, really: I will leave the ship first to study the terrain and either find an organism to bring back to the ship (as the original plan stood) OR find signs of organisms previously visiting where we will touch down. These signs will include things along the lines of disturbed water, animal-like tracks, or some sort of organic matter within the water itself with which a lower creature could exist upon. If I encounter none of these, responsibility will fall to Dr. Howard to take samples of the water itself and determine if there are traces of the alien fluid within it; if there are, we will have a means of studying its properties aboard the ship before searching for the organism itself and if not, we will at least know that the fluid either dissipates in water or that there are none of the organism living within the water. The plan is fundamentally sound, and we would only require the help of Mr. Bairnes in the event that no traces of the organism are found in the water or in my initial search, at which point Dr. Howard and I would need to venture deeper into the environment to find a living specimen in hiding.

However, upon making our victorious stride to the cockpit to announce our progress, we discovered that our news would need to wait on more demanding developments. These developments involved the status of the ship and how the expedition could be compromised if they are not dealt with immediately and before we make our final approach. Mrs. Willard, who is apparently the more able-bodied engineer of our two pilots, has declared mere minutes ago that she will be examining the exterior landing gear and that artificial gravity will remain off for the duration of the process; an irritating parameter yet necessary to make transitions outside of the ship more smooth. I will be unable to write effectively during this time and Mrs. Willard is unsure of how long the process will take, but considering how anxious I am about the precarious uncertainty upon which our ship slowly descends, I will certainly update as soon as possible with the verdict on our condition.

Our plans were introduced with the blunt demands of Mr. MacReady, “So do you two at least have a plan yet?” To which Dr. Howard and I answered with a rather anticlimactic, “Yes.” That was all MacReady and Bairnes needed to feel secure at the moment and frankly, despite our disappointment, I cannot find it in me to disagree with them; the situation seems maddening enough to be so far beyond the contact and assistance of Earth.

For now, all we can do is await Mrs. Willard’s return.

– King

Journal Entry 05
Day 7
Time: 1500 hours

Mrs. Willard returned this morning in a blaze of fury. Her face was bright crimson from the artificial oxygen or unadulterated rage, I cannot be sure, but what I can determine is that it’s no positive sign for the condition of our ship. She wordlessly trudged into the cockpit, demanding that Bairnes leave her with MacReady, taking us all aback with the abrupt change in her typically cool-headed attitude. Bairnes complied however, joining Dr. Howard and I in a curious huddle outside of the cockpit with his shoulders shrugged in obliviousness. There was no hope in eavesdropping as the doors are all sealed tightly, locking even sound into each individual room throughout the ship, so we collectively decided to await enlightenment of the situation in the hull which Mrs. Willard would undoubtedly pass through on her way out of the cockpit. As we waited, we indulged Mr. Bairnes on the details of our plan and his potential role if results come up slim to which he responded well, not having many expectations as to his role outside of appearing on the mission as a formal precaution; an “insurance policy,” as he referred to himself.

After an hour or so, the doors hissed open with an accompanied cacophony of shouting and irritable debate following Mrs. Willard from inside the cockpit. Nothing was discernable from the hull save for Willard barking a single accusation before spitefully thrusting her fist into the control panel for the door, cutting them off, “…ing conspiracy theories! We’ve got to figure this out before we take a Titanian nosedive, not point needless fingers!! I’m going back out, and I’m cutting off communication; I’m tired of this bullshit.” We all stood at her reentry like speechless children as she continued past us with her helmet tucked under her arm and without so much as a word as she turned the corner for the airlock vengefully.

The doors to the cockpit reopened as MacReady slowly lumbered out with a coiled scowl on his face and spiteful disregard in his eyes. His head turned towards the direction of the airlock, he marched over to our group crowded around the table in the center of the hull, still standing dumbfounded. Without even the slightest glance in our direction, he swiped a bottle of wine from a nearby, white plastic coffee table and with a masterful flick of his wrist he withdrew a small pocket knife from his coat and pried out the cork to take a long swig. We looked on in confusion and a sort of estranged awe at the demeanor of the man, wondering how on Earth this man was designated the pilot for such a valuable mission. As if in response to our silent criticism, MacReady addressed us with a harsh grunt as he wiped his beard on his sleeve, still never giving us a moment’s eye contact, “Quick gawking and do something productive.” As he huffs his commands at us angrily, he raises his eyes to look past us and out the Hull windows at the bluish giant staring directly back at him with such inhuman aggression. We all turned in tandem to look upon Uranus which now towered before us, with what could only be 26 or so hours remaining between us and Titania; a clock which ticks in gargantuan strokes as Mrs. Willard toils away in something we bystanders cannot understand.

As we gazed forebodingly into the unwavering eye of the planet, I heard a grunted, “Hopeless,” from MacReady as he shuffled away from the table in an echoing chorus of a pocket knife clacking shut and the distinct hiss of the cockpit doors opening and closing again. While I can’t say he’s wrong for doubting our collective ability to act in this precarious situation considering we’ve been able to do nothing since then but gossip about possible conflict between our pilots as well as MacReady’s suggested drinking habits, they haven’t told us anything about our status nor what we can do to help in the matter. However, even if our brazen captain were to indulge us as to the issues which they have encountered with the ship, Mrs. Willard has disconnected her communications with the cockpit and thus her knowledge of the ship’s condition must go unheard until she concludes her repairs; who knows how long that will take. I’ll tell you who, MacReady does, and frankly I’m tired of his childish attitude; this is neither the time nor place to be keeping secrets bottled up from those whom they would affect the most.

I must say, this entire expedition has been defined by a general lack of information. Houston has supplied us with little in the way of novel developments, Dr. Howard made few definite conclusions on his own time, and now even our engineers refuse to inform us on where we stand or…float rather. It’s driving me mad, really, as if nobody aboard this ship nor back on Earth wish to LEARN anything from this experience; I feel less like a field biologist and more like an overpaid fisherman at this point. I never thought I would be in a position to say this considering how much of an honor it was to be summoned by name for this mission, but truly I just want it to be over with. I want to find the damn thing and hurry on back so I can breathe some real, unadulterated air, maybe do some real fishing for lampreys in the Great Lakes like the old days.

Those days feel all the more enticing the longer I spend in this over sized plastic tube. Patience is running thin with the lot of us, and I only hope that Mrs. Willard finishes up by tonight and gives us a calm and collected verdict which we can work with. There should be around 30 hours remaining before we touch down on Titania’s surface and the other two have gone to their rooms for early sleep which I’m sure we all need, though MacReady still hasn’t left the cockpit. I too will retreat to my quarters as I’ve been writing for a couple of hours now and don’t feel it necessary for me to await Mrs. Willard’s return; I’m sure MacReady will be first to receive her.

So exhausted. I’ll have to update as soon as I awaken as I’m sure it will be when Willard returns with news and I have no intention of waiting much longer for our two delightful pilots to indulge us. I do apologize for my edginess, I guess we’ve all caught a bit of cabin fever in our time up here. Nevertheless, we have no choice but to stick with each other, at least until we acquire the specimen and get off the ground.

Should be simple enough.

– King

Journal Entry 06
Day: 8
Time: 0100 hours

Middle of the night, something woke me up. I swore I heard the recognizable click of a door opening down the hall followed by some footsteps. I stepped out momentarily to investigate to no avail and though I may just be groggy, nothing seemed to have changed in the hull since I had left it earlier; in fact the door leading to our quarters’ was still open as I remembered accidently leaving it. Mrs. Willard instructed me to leave it shut, but I always felt no harm in my forgetfulness, and thus made no attempts to amend the habit in the few days I would be aboard.

I’m back in my bed and beyond brutalized by tiredness. It must have been MacReady returning to his quarters, though I couldn’t remember hearing those noisy cockpit doors. Then again, it could have been only the proximity of the doors within the quarters which awoke me, and thus I wouldn’t have noticed any previous sounds. I mustn’t let it worry me, I already have far too much to think about, and things going bump in the night may drive me to borrow some “supplements” from Dr. Howard.

Let’s hope I stay asleep this time.

– King

Journal Entry 07
Day: 8
Time: 0900 hours

Enlightened, famous, perhaps even rich were among many things I had hoped to become though the process of this expedition. One position I could have never predicted myself in was hostage. That’s right, I am now a hostage on this ship, along with Dr. Howard and Mr. Bairnes at the hands of our buffoonish, drunkard captain MacReady. We’re currently seated around the table once more within the hull as MacReady stands in the corner of the room armed with irrational fury and a loaded revolver. He’s been ceaselessly barking questions at us like some crime drama cop until now and nether of my companions have been at all entertained with the performance while I must admit, I’m probably white as a sheet; I’ve never been good with authorities.

Allow me to explain in further detail, though I’m not sure how much time I have to write before MacReady feels it necessary to demand more answers from us. I woke up before the others this morning and left my quarters in the direction of the hull, hoping for new developments, however upon opening the door to the hull, there was only MacReady seated at the table facing the door. His presence startled me, but what truly took me aback was that he seemed to be awaiting my entry with a gun resting on the table before him and, as the others joined me in the doorway, preparing to enter the room, MacReady shouted at us all to stand right where we were. He then lifted the gun, rose from the table and instructed us to sit while he stood at the helm of the table. Bairnes protested, but MacReady made it very clear that tensions were higher than we had anticipated, and that he wasn’t unprepared to deal with them if necessary.

Apparently Mrs. Willard hadn’t returned to the ship last night, in fact she hadn’t at all because the line securing her to the outside of the ship had been remotely detached with Mrs. Willard nowhere to be found. MacReady claims that performing such an override while someone was attached to the line would require experience with the mechanics of the ship, implying that one of us is not who we say we are. I saw this as an opportunity to determine exactly what she was doing outside of the ship, and though it may not have been wise to assert myself to an armed man, he indulged us all the same.

He informed us that Mrs. Willard had a suspicion about the condition of the landing gear as nothing showed up for them in a diagnostic check of the ship’s systems, and she had left the ship to investigate. She had returned to the cockpit with the aggravating news that the landing gear had in fact been tampered with and reprogrammed as to avoid the ship warning us about it. This was clearly an inside job, MacReady claimed, and though Mrs. Willard disagreed with him she still went back out in attempts to remedy the situation. He grimly stated however, that she was unsuccessful, and whoever cut her line did it too long ago so that nothing could be done to rescue her from drifting to her demise. Thus MacReady believes that his suspicions have been affirmed and all that’s left to do is to find the culprit and force them to reverse the damage which they have inflicted upon the ship and ensure a safe landing which is less than 10 hours away at this point.

Bairnes grew more aggressive the more MacReady explained, demanding to know why damaged landing gear would make any difference and why someone would want to sabotage such a simple mission. MacReady explained that while the ship can enter the planet’s atmosphere with damaged landing gear and make a relatively safe descent, the ship cannot physically LEAVE the atmosphere if the landing gear cannot retract fully as the aerodynamics would be thrown off dramatically, granting the ship insufficient velocity needed to leave the moon’s gravitational field. Therefore, unless the traitor was found, there will be no leaving Titania once we landed.

Though Bairnes simply appears smug and irritable, Dr. Howard is beginning to worry me. He is obviously beginning to experience panic, and though he’s demanded that MacReady allow him to return to his room for his medication, six chambers still stand between him and his quarters. I’ve begun to notice minute twitches and ticks, and his overall demeanor is frighteningly pale and flighty as if he were slowly losing his grasp of the situation the louder MacReady’s tone crescendos.

There seems to be an argument sparking between Dr. Howard and Mr. MacReady. I’m afraid I have to put my journal down and make an attempt to calm Dr. Howard before he has a panic attack or worse, gets himself shot.

Wish me luck.

– King

Journal Entry 08
Day: 10
Time: not known

As I had expected, the air is frigid on the surface of Titania to the point where even filtered oxygen makes me shiver as it flows into my helmet. My head is dizzy and my body is numb though I can’t say so much for my companions; strewn about the hull like discarded ragdolls. I must have been unconscious for about a day, maybe more but I cannot be sure as the ship’s Earth clock along with all other automatic functions have been destroyed in the crash. Anyway, I have only had time to drag myself over to check the grim state of my companions and write this short record of the disastrous occurrences of the past day.

I’m not sure whether or not oxygen is still being consistently produced in the ship, but just to be sure I fitted myself and any living crew members with helmets. By any, I mean Bairnes and MacReady; Dr. Howard is dead by a bullet in his torso. A certain amount of hope has been extinguished with my fellow scientist’s life, as there is none else capable of identifying the hostility of this environment than he. I can examine the ecosystem as much as I like but it’s still not Earth, it’s still uncertain whether or not my knowledge even applies here; only educated analysis of the organism’s secretions can determine whether or not we should panic.

Our ship crashed rather close to what can only be described as a cave, as it is large enough for a man to enter upright and seems long enough to be an entrance to some inner cavern. This must be our drones’ means of accessing the subterranean oceans beneath the crust of the moon, by boring out a massive hole inward though it’s strange, as if this entrance had been made by multiple machines, not the single drones we sent to each moon of any given planet. Nevertheless, there will be no spelunking to be done until the rest of the crew awakens, or at least until Mr. Bairnes does; Mr. MacReady seems to be in rough shape, perhaps even critical condition from his outburst which resulted in our bumpy landing.

Dr. Howard lashed out in his immense anxiety, claiming that the mission wasn’t even worth it at this point and if the ship were to break up in the atmosphere, so be it. MacReady did not take to this well and nearly jammed the revolver down his throat, bellowing at him like some kind of rabid beast about how he must be the traitor amongst them. Bairnes reacted swiftly to the situation, bounding over the table like a burly jackrabbit, grabbing hold of the hand in which MacReady held his gun and pulling it back in an attempt to point it away from Howard but to no avail. As Dr. Howard scrambled to retreat from his chair, the surprise of Bairnes’ attack startled MacReady and clenched his finger around the trigger, sending Howard back across the floor clutching his rib cage. Bairnes and MacReady proceeded in their brawl as Bairnes disarmed our captain, throwing the firearm away and into the open cockpit where they would both scramble to gain an advantage. While they occupied themselves, I dove for Dr. Howard in hopes that the wound was not fatal and though it merely punctured his pelvis, the man wailed in pain like a pitiful creature caught in a bear trap. He was losing blood swiftly and as I attempted to raise him upright and bring him to a medical kit, the entire room was flooded with vermilion light and blaring sirens. I could hear grunts and shouts erupting from the cockpit and adding to the raucous din of stimulus surrounding us; my head was spinning.

Finally, Bairnes stumbled from the open cockpit doors, clutching his ribs with one hand through a torn up sleeve and MacReady’s pocket knife in the other, visibly caked with crimson. He blurted across the room to me with disgruntled haste to hold on to something as he himself knelt and clung to the module for the cockpit doors, they must have accidentally triggered some emergency landing protocol in their flurry and I now dizzily searched for something to cling to. I dragged Dr. Howard’s screeching corpse across the floor to the table at the center of the room which was bolted to the floor, latching my free arm around its base. All I remember is the deafening clamor of those sirens singing out in symphony with Dr. Howard’s agonizing screams. It was a hellish ride, I assure you.

And now I find myself here, after many hours of unconsciousness alone aboard this ship with the lifeless corpse of Howard mere feet away from me, gazing blankly at the ceiling, Bairnes breathing barely shallow breaths in an unresponsive state, and MacReady unconscious as well within the cockpit of the ship, bleeding out slowly from multiple nonlethal stab wounds in his legs and belly. It’s so unbearably silent now, save for a distant ringing in my ears that must be a result of the impact, but I can’t help but feel rather shell shocked from such a calamity. It’s also so dark here, on this moon which is to be expected of Titania as it is so far from the sun yet I had not expected it at all and I’m painstakingly writing by the light of a blinking emergency warning which was triggered when the entrance to our quarters was caved in during the crash. This also means that we don’t have access to Dr. Howard’s medical equipment for use on Mr. MacReady if his condition worsens. I am however reluctant to even reenter the cockpit with that violent man much less tend to his flesh wounds.

We will more than likely need to move as soon as the two awaken, as the ship will soon run out of its stored oxygen and a CO2 buildup is something which we shaken men don’t need to worry about at this point. We’d might as well salvage the mission if we can, as a rescue ship will be sent out within the next few days and if we have something to show for ourselves, this disaster will have at least not been in vain. I can only hope that the situation is not as I had feared in which case CO2 and pocketknives are the least of our concerns.

I will update if and when we find ourselves in a more steady condition though it will have to be by the light of night vision which may be difficult. I’m not sure what lies within that darkened cave in the near distance, but I can’t imagine it will hop in our laps and purr like a cat.

– King

Journal Entry 09
Day: 10
Time: must be nighttime on Earth

Blackness, nothing but all-consuming blackness. This cavern, this oceanic grotto is stunning but I wish I could enjoy it in a shade other than neon, night vision green. However, I can’t complain considering our circumstances have improved drastically from battered bodies to huddled and whimpering sods. Bairnes and I managed to drag MacReady out from the cockpit, away from the ship and into cave over the course of what must have been five hours without a budge from him outside of shallow breathing. Using half a flask of whiskey, we soaked a small stack of books and let them ablaze in what was the most pathetic fire I have ever seen, and I have camped in the Amazon before during the rainy season. My survival training has come in rather handy in this particular situation, as it was needed to patch up MacReady and maintain the fire despite it not giving off enough light to explore the shores of the water.

The ocean itself extends off into the darkness in all directions and it’s impossible to tell how deep it is nor at what point it drops off. We’re also rendered ignorant as to how safe the water is to even touch much less drink without the help of Dr. Howard whom we were forced to leave with the wreckage of our ship. Dr. Howard and Mrs. Willard were the only two individuals on this expedition whom I found myself able to speak to freely and though Bairnes has shaped up to be a rather agreeable man, I cannot find myself any more socially apt around him than MacReady, and thus the day has been long and wordless to the point where I have almost completely lost track of time.

I have informed Bairnes that I still plan on scouting the area for any signs of hostile life, or perhaps the organism itself and that I wish for him to accompany me just in case. Bairnes agreed but showed tentativeness at the prospect of leaving MacReady unsupervised which is understandable considering the damage he’s already done to our crew and the expedition; I’m not prepared to return to another standoff over the campfire with the current state of my nerves.

I figured it would prove wise to bind MacReady’s hands and search him for weapons in case he decides to go rogue on us while we’re fumbling around in the dark. Bairnes also suggested that we revoke his night vision attachment from his helmet to ensure that he does not wander off and thought I found this measure questionable, we don’t exactly have time to debate; I’d rather have peace of mind than indulge my empathetic urges right now.

As I struggle to write this by the weak, grainy glow of the night vision attachment, Bairnes is silently roping the unconscious MacReady’s wrists with a length of wire from the ship; how grateful I am that he has yet to awaken and this task had not turned into a wrestling match. Bairnes asked about the notebook earlier and I told him about the log I have been keeping throughout the expedition, how I long to return to Earth and publish it as either a progressive documentary or an action-adventure novel, whatever people are willing to believe. He chuckled at this comment and asked to read it while we walked though I refused, he seemed rather insistent on borrowing the notebook in fact; strange. Anyway, we’ll be off momentarily and though I wish I could make more meticulous preparations, there is little I can do outside of calming myself mentally as I seem to be experiencing a bit of panic; my breathing has become shallow and there is a knot in my chest which becomes tighter as the minutes lurch on. What lies on the banks of this gargantuan, stagnant pool is just beyond me but I get the feeling that something will be waiting for us and whether it is predator or prey, I am unsure.

Mr. Bairnes has returned with MacReady’s knife and his night vision attachment. Bairnes revealed that he had a revolver with him just in case and thus I coerced him to let me hold on to the knife; it’s not much but it’s far greater security than my nonexistent pugilist background. I’d better check MacReady’s vitals before we leave and change his bandages, we have sat him up next to the pathetic flare remaining of our campfire, sufficiently far from the water, I believe. God help the poor lunatic.

God help us all.

– King

Journal Entry 10
Day 11
Time: no way to tell

MacReady was right. I never thought that I would give him such credit, but now as I kneel before the darkened, wet lump that is his corpse lying face down in the water, the reality of this “expedition” sends me reeling within my own obliviousness. We came cautiously when we heard a raucous splash from the direction of the camp at which we left MacReady’s unconscious and bound person only to find his motionless body surrounded by ankle-deep water which had slowly risen to claim the fire along with the poor man’s life. He must have stood and walked a few steps before falling as we found him a short distance from where we left him, and without so much as surveying the thing, we already knew what became of him, as well as what Bairnes and I are dealing with.

In fact, the truth which MacReady was sharp enough to realize involves the dear Mr. Bairnes of whom I speak of…in fact it IS him. As we made our way along the shore, I swiftly realized that the immediate area which we surveyed was devoid of life, even the water did not make a sound, lying impossibly still; it’s as if nothing has moved within that vast ocean for years. We did find something however, something which would place my life in a precarious position of danger, teetering even now as I sit a safe distance from the water. For we did not find the organism, nor did we find some horrible, carnivorous beast; we found the last expedition.

A single, human corpse silently decaying into the earthy sand which borders the water, wearing the same orange jumpsuit as MacReady and Willard had. I leaped back at the macabre specimen out of a severe concoction of fear and bafflement; Titania had only been explored by probe…once! Yet without a doubt, before my own eyes, rests a half-buried cadaver decomposing as it should; the pale, purple skin slowly flaking off of the muscle suggests that it’s long since dead. In my befuddlement, it took me more than a few minutes to find my explanation down the cold barrel of a revolver pressed to the back of my head.

Mr. Bairnes explained that our new acquaintance is one Dr. Maria Crane, a respected woman of science and the first astronaut to touch down on the face of Titania. He explained without removing the gun from its position that we were not the first to seek out this organism, as Dr. Crane’s expedition obviously ended unfortunately as well as without a live specimen. Those underhanded bastards back at Houston played us, leading us to believe that we were venturing out into the unexplored reaches of space and be the first to risk our lives in the name of science. Instead, we were sent on what had already been proven to be a suicide mission; we were not intended to be pioneers, we’re mere grunts being sent to our probable doom with the vague hope that we’ll bring something back. And that two-faced rodent Bairnes had been working with them all along, ensuring that the crew learn nothing of Houston’s plans to draw out the organism once more with a fresh crew. The fiend murdered Mrs. Willard surely because she was the first to catch on to his putrid scent, uncovering his attempts to so-called, “Keep the crew grounded,” as Bairnes explained. I wanted to strangle that devilish excuse for a man, that cogwheel in a machine of corruption which left us stranded on this god forsaken rock in the depths of nothingness, but I had to settle for shoving him into the water when he finally lowered his weapon. He arose with the thing cocked and ready, but he struggled to hold steady as he found himself sopping wet with an exposed hand allowing water into the sleeve of his suit. Serves the moron right, should have thought about that before playing fisticuffs with MacReady back at the ship.
I however, have insufficient energy to attempt fighting fire with fists, and thus I reluctantly complied with him. As he began to describe our new course of action around finding a live specimen and awaiting a secondary expedition bound to pick up Bairnes and any potential survivors within three days, we heard MacReady and raced to find him as he is now. The water rose without us even noticing, and I would not doubt that the organism had ample time to attack the unconscious MacReady and retreat back into the tide without leaving a trace. In fact I’m afraid to examine his corpse for risk of coming in contact with the organism’s secretions, and both Bairnes and I have taken precautions to stay far away from the water from now on; I’m only thankful nothing got to him when I pushed him in…to a degree.

There’s no hope for a fire anymore as all of our kindling was drowned with the undertow which emits only gentle ripples from around the gentle silhouette of our face-down friend. We have only the dwindling batteries of our night vision to keep us from going mad in the silent pitch that surrounds us. Above everything however, more than the pristine silence, more than the frigid air, even more than this omnipresent shade, it is panic which overwhelms me most. My breathing is labored, almost hyperventilating, and I had to coerce Bairnes into resting a moment only after he became rather exhausted himself, complaining of his head “swimming.” I checked my oxygen filter yet the small display on my chest reads that oxygen is flowing steadily into my helmet, so it must be something internal. My symptoms seem to match those of a panic attack, or at least what I saw in Dr. Howard when we were still on the ship, except for one small detail…one nagging sensation which I have only now begun to notice and cannot wrench my mind from no matter how hard I focus.

Tinnitus, I believe it’s called; simple ringing in the ears. It began when Bairnes was explaining the truth to me, and I had previously attributed it to pure rage and anxiety which had begun rising within my throat the more I learned. However, even now as I scribble what I can, seated across from the pleasantly sleeping cretin that is Bairnes, the faint din has slowly arisen to the forefront of my attention to the point where I struggle even to hear myself think. My head was already throbbing but now the noise has become unbearable, like some distant squealing in the back of my head as my synapses cry out in pain. I hope that if I sleep now, some of this splitting pain will dissipate, and perhaps we CAN return to our search for the organism.

I only hope that it does not find us first and do to us what it did to MacReady. I’m beginning to see shapes swirling in my vision, I must be getting a migraine. I’m forced to cease writing and rest my head. Houston, if you ever happen upon this journal,

Burn. In. Hell.

– King

Journal Entry 11
Day: ??
Time: irrelevant

I’m alone. I’m condemned to solitude in this dripping fucking hole in a remote corner of the cosmos. I woke up, painfully, as I passed out for what must have been fifteen minutes or so upon trying to lift my head; a lot of blood must have left my head while I was laid down, and my breathing is now reduced to heavy heaving. When I finally managed to stave off madness itself in the form of discordant ringing greeting my awakening, I painstakingly pawed my way over to Bairnes to stir him to no god damn avail. I discovered him breathless, without a pulse, slumped over in a seated position like a deathly monolith before me, overshadowing me despite an encompassing lack of light with which to cast one.

I managed to make a vaguely thorough search of his immediate person for any signs of the organism but found nothing. With the final dregs of my mental strength and a blinking red light in the corner of my night vision display, I crawled in the direction of MacReady’s corpse. With what was surely a cacophony of struggled grunts, I managed to flip over the body to uncover a horrendous scene: MacReady’s head is fully exposed as his helmet is shattered open, glass puncturing his face in various places for a gory demise. However, I now understood his death; if the venom of the organism did not kill him alone, it must have weakened his central nervous system to the point where he became too weak to walk and collapsed, face down in the water, and drowned. What I was unsure of however, is whether or not his helmet broke open upon impact with the ground…or if something found its way in.

I left him however, as a small notification appeared across my vision notifying me that my night vision attachment had 10 minutes before it would shut down, its battery drained. Even in my panicked, weakened state, I remembered that Bairnes had taken MacReady’s attachment and must still have it, and thus I returned to the lifeless lump with renewed hope. However I swiftly realized that the hope was misplaced as the imbecile never shut the attachment off, thus draining the battery completely, as well as his own. To think that of all the sly, cunning scoundrels which Houston could have chosen from to accompany us in this grim expedition, they had to pick the kind of person who leaves the lights on when they leave a room or better yet, when they leave the land of the living.

With despair in my heart, lead in my lungs, and a deafening clamor splitting my ears asunder, I write to you, whomever may read this, as I await the finale of my 10 remaining minutes of sight. I have begun to come to terms with the nature of my current condition as I have lost feeling in my legs and most of my lower torso; the organism must have come in contact with me at some point or another. Breathing is nearly impossible now, my mind is screaming, and I am slowly but surely losing control of my motor functions; there’s no doubt about it, my nervous system is gradually giving way to the creature’s venom just like those vermin back on Earth. Those vermin who died in boxes in a laboratory somewhere underground, no more isolated than I am as I write within this damn cave.

There must be something I can do to survive, at least a few days until the next expedition arrives and finds me here. I have to stay awake, there’s simply no other option; if my central nervous system is failing then I cannot give in to sleep until my body forces it upon me for I may not awaken…just like Bairnes. I can barely think straight at this point…it’s very difficult to write. Maybe I’ll check Bairnes again, see if I can figure out how it got to him…Maybe I’ll be alright…

I just want the ringing to stop.

– King

Journal Entry 12
Day:
Time:

It’s inside me. I can feel it, squirming around in my ear canal, wailing like a petulant swine. It’s not tinnitus, it’s not a migraine, it has gotten inside me just like it did to Bairnes and MacReady. That’s why I could not find it on them…THAT’S why there was never any bites or anything on their skin…because it crawled in their ears while they were sleeping…it crawled in and screamed at them, but they could not hear it like I do. They did not know until it was too late.

They got to MacReady through his helmet when he must have fell and shattered it open. He couldn’t get back up because the venom was too potent and disabled his body, like a spider’s neurotoxins paralyzing its prey while it devours it alive.

They got to Bairnes through his sleeve when I shoved him into the water…that’s why his head was swimming…he heard it too, inside his head but the venom must have numbed his body so he could not feel it crawling inside as he fell asleep…It only makes sense as now I can only barely move my arms enough to drag myself along the ground.

I don’t know how it got through the seals of our helmets…but there’s no doubt about it. I can feel it lurching within my skull like a leech thirsting for my brain matter, boring its way deeper and deeper as it screeches…a noise that leaves horrific wounds within my psyche…a noise which I cannot bear any longer.

For I found how it got to me…the knife. MacReady’s knife, which Bairnes gave to me…which I had completely forgotten about. It had cut a hole in the torso of my suit as I had laid down, leaving an opening for those scuttling things to worm their way inside my suit and up into my helmet. But how…HOW? How did they get inside my helmet, I would have suffocated by now!

I know it’s in there though. Nothing of Earth, nothing of the human body could produce such a terrible, gut-wrenching wail the likes of which has been ripping my mind to ribbons.

I cannot allow this creature to have free reign within my skull…my body is going numb, I’m barely breathing, and I have mere minutes before my night vision cuts out entirely…

If that happens…I’m trapped. I’m caged within my own mind with not a single thing to accompany me but this unholy ringing. I cannot bear to imagine such a fate.

I cannot wait three days for the next expedition…I cannot spend another second with this demon writhing within me, siphoning my soul from inside me. I have to get it out.

I have MacReady’s knife in one hand, the other is readied on the release switch for my helmet.

I can’t feel anything
I can’t even hear myself scream.
There’s nothing but ringing now.

– Final entry in the journal of Dr. Edwin King

Captain Jacob Ripley
Expeditionary Log
1300 Hours

This is Captain Jacob Ripley, appointed head of this expedition to retrieve any remaining subjects of the primary mission on Titania, moon of Uranus. We had been informed of the situation and told to expect only Mr. Carl Bairnes to be present however it seems that Mr. Bairnes encountered complications as not only did we encounter the team’s desecrated spacecraft outside of the subterranean cavern, but inside we found further evidence of the expedition’s failure.

The strange thing is, we never intended for the team to encounter the specimen, as Titania’s seasons span many Earth years and during the darker of those seasons, the organism is completely inactive. The expedition was intentionally rushed out to take advantage of the inactivity, as the organism does little during this time except burrow under the “sea” floor and hibernate as they are cold-blooded. Unfortunately, what we learned about the organism when communication went dark, was that the organism contains heat sensitive cells which trigger the continuous release of what can be compared to Earth’s morphine in order to suppress its bodily functions and hibernate. On-site tests of the subterranean body of water showed dangerously high levels of the chemical, which means our hypotheses are in fact correct, and if we proceed with draining the small ocean, we can dig up more than sufficient specimens.

While Dr. Dwight Howard was found shot dead in the wreckage of the ship, we have sent out a small search party to scour the shores for Mrs. Julia Willard who seems to be missing. The other three were found around a small pile of ashes which must have been a fire before it mostly drifted out with the tide. Mr. Kurt MacReady’s waterlogged corpse was found a short distance away from the other two, the cause of death is drowning. His arms were bound with wire, so we can only assume that as the chemical-contaminated water made prolonged contact with him, it began numbing his body as morphine-like compounds do, and as he attempted to stand he would have lost his balance, falling and breaking open his helmet. At this point he would have swallowed a great deal of the water and the chemical process will have rendered him unable to control his muscles enough to flip himself over.

Fortunately, Mr. Bairnes was found heavily sedated by the chemical compound as it seemed to have soaked his clothing at one point or another as well as getting through his torn sleeve directly to skin. His pulse is barely noticeable and his breathing disturbingly shallow, but our doctors on board should have no trouble resuscitating him enough to report before returning home. Thank god he did not panic, as his condition is nothing more than a heavily sedated surgical patient. Unfortunately however, the same cannot be said for Dr. Edwin King.

Dr. King was found in a rather peculiar state, as he was completely untouched by the water as well as the chemical compound so he would not have experienced any symptoms, though his death was particularly gruesome. His helmet was opened manually and his ear canals gouged out with a pocket knife, apparently by his own hand as the knife in question was found near his corpse which ended up far from the others. Despite this despicable act of quasi-suicide, the cause of death determined by our doctors seemed to be oxygen deprivation or simply suffocation. We figured that this was due to the helmet being opened, but upon further inspection of Dr. King’s suit, the doctors digressed.

Dr. King’s helmet was dismantled in order to inspect the damage to the sides and back of his skull and clearly present along the back of the visor is a small crack. This seemingly minuscule rupture in the glass would have slowly halved the amount of oxygen intake and resulted in an unnoticeable release of air. The technicians informed me that the visor must have been damaged in the crash and thus he would have experienced more and more difficulties breathing as well as functioning as the crack widened. They also said the only indication of this given the crack would have been behind his head (essentially invisible to him) would be the sound of oxygen escaping which would have manifested as a loud, high pitch squealing noise. The noise must have driven the poor sod crazy, carved his ears out having to listen to it.

Regardless, the bodies of the team as well as that of Dr. Maria Crane (whom Houston will be glad to have found), will be returned to Earth to be cremated. All evidence of this expedition as well as that of Dr. Crane will be hereby erased with the mass retrieval of the designated specimen for research. With further testing, we may come to mass produce a new age in surgical anesthetic, pain relief, and sleeping medications. In fact, the doctors on board offered me a diluted sample of the chemical secretion to try as a form of benign headache relief. Works like a charm, save for a little ringing in the ears.

Tinnitus, the doctors said; simple ringing in the ears. Should pass with a bit of sleep.

– Captain Jacob Ripley signing off.

Credit To – Captain Boris Lightning

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Conveyor

October 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Jason paced the room, where him and four of his colleagues had fled. His steps lined the walls, longer than they ever have. His work demanded the most complex and ambitious thought, but he had never felt this pressured before. Though the project had no appointed leader or organizer, the others had looked to him as a leader since the beginning.

“Well?”, Calvin spoke, with a hand to his forehead. “Where to go from here?” “To be honest,” said Jason, “I’m not entirely sure. We’re all part of this. I don’t know why everyone’s looking at me.”

“Well you’ve certainly called most of the shots. You’re the first to make suggestions, most of the time. How should now be any different?”

Despite Jason’s claim, not everyone was looking at him. Connor, who had remained silent since the group entered the room, was huddled in a corner. He clasped his legs in a fetal position, staring forward as though he hallucinated. The group had stopped trying to communicate with him. They knew he had already gone mad from the events beforehand. In fact, they could only understand his sudden insanity.

Clarice tended the wound on Reyna’s arm, which was inflicted by teeth on their way up the stairs. Calvin and Ronan began to argue again, this time on what path of the facility would be most clear to travel. Jason only began to pace again, until he was caught by Calvin and Ronan’s words.

“We could try the nearest stairway again”, Ronan said. “It was clear up to here, so it should be clear the rest of the way. The things should only be at the deeper levels right now-”

“Right now!”, Calvin interrupted. “Exactly! Just where could they be five minutes from now? They could be more intelligent at this point, and could be tracking us down to here! We need to head towards the east stairs, and move out from there. It’s been vacant up to now, so it should leave a clear path out of this place.”

Jason stopped in his step, with his back faced towards the others.

“Out?”, Jason spoke softly “Is that what you think our objective is? Is that what you think needs to be done, Calvin? We created this, we weren’t prepared for it. And for that, we must stop it. The H.G.C. must be stopped.”

“That’s fucking insane. You’ve seen what’s happened. It’s not only uncontrollable, it’s aware. Shutting it down is impossible at this point.”

“Then it must be destroyed”, said Reyna. “It can’t be allowed to keep operating, not like this.”

“Alright, we leave this place, call for military forces, and they come in and destroy the machine, along with those fucking nightmares.”

“Tell me, Calvin”, said Jason, now turning to look at the group. “Do you want military forces to come and look upon our work, what we’ve been keeping completely undisclosed to almost all eyes so far? Do you want to suffer their questions and punishments once they take hold of the situation?”

Calvin was about to answer angrily, but he couldn’t help but agree, in silence.

“That’s what I thought.”

“Any other personnel that may still be alive, that managed to get away?”, asked Ronan.

“That aren’t in this room?”, Calvin replied. “Not a chance. The doors were sealed when the H.G.C. went haywire. We were in the only ones out of the room. It’s a miracle in itself that Connor managed to make to us, as those freaks scattered. It’s not like there were many of us to begin with, anyway.”


Given the confidentiality of the project, the facility was deliberately understaffed to maintain secrecy of information. The team had consisted of twelve individuals, all qualified researchers and technicians. Candidates for the project were chosen based on qualifications in both scientific and technological backgrounds. Personnel was also selected in terms of perseverance and dedication. Knowledgable, under-the-radar individuals were the most welcomed.

Keeping the project hidden from unwelcome eyes (both military and government) was an absolute necessity. Because of this, the project was developed in an underground facility, which had been left abandoned since the end of the Cold War. While the facility was very large, the project only required a single, large room, where the H.G.C. (Human Genetics Constructor) was built. The elevators were used for swift travel, but the rest of the space had been left unused, and even unseen.

“We must go now”, said Jason. “The H.G.C. is made to adapt quickly, so we can’t keep waiting. Have your weapons at the ready. We may not have a clear path to the room.”

The group listened, hesitation as they moved out to the hall. For the first time since the project began, Jason felt unsure, paranoid, unaware if he was making the correct choice.

As the group of six left the shelter of the secluded room, the sheer lifelessness of the complex began to make itself clear. The halls they travelled had not seen life for years since their arrival. In fact, what the facility had been used for before their project had still been largely unknown. The large space and multi-purpose rooms hinted to something major, requiring many workers and possible large equipment.

Jason, as usual, took lead as the group went towards the elevator. The rest followed close together, with the exception of Connor. He lagged behind, stumbling occasionally, scanning the surrounding walls. Reyna had made attempts to speak with Connor, and was constantly met with silence. Even as he stepped behind the group, still conscious of movement and sound, he appeared to isolate himself from the remaining researchers.

Just how intelligent the creations were was still a mystery to the group. Jason couldn’t tell if they were incapable to going through doors, or competent enough to work elevators. This made him panic as he went further down the hall. To his relief, when they reached the elevator, the space was clear.

The trip down to the lab level was silent, with the exception of grinding elevator shaft. Jason felt for his gun around his belt, while Calvin was already clutching his. Reyna’s upper arm was injured, but she still seemed able to handle a firearm.

The elevator stopped on the lab floor.

“Let’s try to keep this as simple as possible.”, Jason said. “We stick together, as there’s no point in splitting up. The H.G.C. room is a few halls down, so if we keep pace, we shouldn’t ne-“

The elevator door opened. Near the end of the hall stood a figure, its back turned to the group. It stepped very slowly, and then turned. The lengths of its arms and legs were intimidating, not impossible, but far above an average human’s. It moved forward, towards the elevator.

Then, it began to sprint, sounding a distorted growl.

Jason and Calvin both aimed, and then began to fire. Some shots missed, but others hit the creature in random areas. As the shots hit, the creation let out inconsistent, warped screeches that echoed through the hall. No shots fully stopped it until it received a blow to the head, in which it collapsed to the floor.

The group, after lingering in the elevator for a few seconds, approached the body. Though its limbs were unusually long, it wasn’t the only disturbing feature. Numerous scars were scattered about the body, especially nearing the arms and legs. It was rather frail, leaving its spine very visible. It’s fingers were tipped with small, sharpened fingernails, and patches of skin remained incomplete. The creature had two different eyes, a blue and an orange. Finally, the mouth had been outfitted with an array of needle-tipped teeth.

It was hard for Jason (or any of the researchers, for that matter) to believe that these creations were intended to be real humans. The ending purpose of the Human Genetics Constructor had been debated, but its function remained true to the project’s goal: to create real, living, and completely accurate humans. The H.G.C. was not a cloning machine or android constructor; its humans were completely unique to each other, all capable of being programmed with specific skills, physical attributes, and knowledge.

When the H.G.C. had finished construction, its first tests were flaws, but none capable of causing the madness that had unfolded. The early subjects had drained senses, stunted limbs, misplaced and/or dysfunctional organs, and the occasional mixup of male and female features. Most of its early persons didn’t live for more than a minute.

To help correct many early mistakes, the H.G.C. was programmed to not only be self-operating, but also self-correcting. If a created human was judged as a failure, it changed its direction and strategy to fix the issue. For over an hour, the machine improved itself as designed, getting closer towards a perfectly normal human.

Over time, the H.G.C.’s programming proved to be highly inconsistent. Even though the machine had gone close to success, it changed its approach constantly. This began to produce more grotesque, nightmarish humans, ones with numerous extra limbs and disarranged, incomplete portions. The researchers, though looking for other solutions, continued to command the system to change its operations, recognizing its faults.

The H.G.C. caught on, in a different sense, one that began the destruction. After the system was aware of its own freedom and power, it realized that its flaws were not with its creations, but its own inventors. The only reason it was failing was because the technicians were claiming it wrong. It then set a new goal in motion, and the objective was simple:

Eliminate all human personnel, immediately.

It produced a new kind of creation: Not an aimless, contorted monster, but a weapon. It produced “humans” specifically designed to kill, monsters that were fast, enduring, capable of biting and ripping a normal person to mere fragments. When the first hideous creation stepped from the machine, it managed to kill three researchers in the first sixty seconds. The H.G.C. had developed a tool, one for removing the errors it had encountered.

Five mistakes remain uncorrected.

As the rest of the group began to move again, Connor still fell behind. He stopped to look at the dead creation, in which Jason looked watched him with curiosity. Connor stared at the carcass, and then looked up towards Jason. “He is false.”, Connor said, before walking forward with the others.

The group began to rush as they encountered more bodies, of both other personnel and the creations. As they neared the room of the H.G.C., the walls became murals of blood and bullet shrapnel. It was unknown if any others managed to escape. Judging by the scene in the halls, it was unlikely.

The number of creations was still a mystery, though their dominance over the facility was surely spreading. Their time was running short, especially as the halls grew large and complex.

“I’ll run in, and try to shut it down manually.” Jason said, as the group approached the observation room. If that doesn’t work, I’ll destroy the power supply. Cover me, and yourselves if needed.”

When they reached the observation, the group approached the window that overlooked the lab, and readied their eyes.

They weren’t ready enough.

The entire room was a bloodbath. The H.G.C.’s conveyor belt ran about the room, connecting its various tools and chambers. The belt had reached a tremendously high speed, much more than it was invented to handle. The machine still functioned, but not at the cost of failures. The inhuman shapes that passed and fell from the belt were near inconceivable to the researchers. Twisted, incomplete “humans” stumbled from the end of the machine.

At an average rate, the H.G.C. created a grotesque humanoid every 45 seconds. At the end of the conveyer lied a stack of the mistakes, with some being able to walk about for a minute. At random intervals, another vicious, capable creation left the conveyor.

Another human bred to kill.

Some of the deceased personnel (or at least some of their pieces) could be seen across the room. The remaining, unseen individuals were either dead in the halls, or buried beneath the heap of contorted limbs.

It was clear that time couldn’t be wasted. Jason focused his eyes to the H.G.C.’s mainframe, its screen lit with commands and chaotic code. Despite its rushed work and many mistakes, it would eventually improve itself, as it was designed to do.

Calvin was petrified with the sight of the room. When they stepped into the hall, however, Calvin turned the other direction. “Fuck this.”, Calvin said. “I’m getting out of this place, and calling for military forces.”

“Wait.”, Jason said. “What makes you think you can leave? Just how many of those ravenous creatures are scattered? You saw how many shots it took to take care of that one earlier. You try to make it out alone, you’re as good as dead.”

“Fuck you! We could’ve made it out at any point before this. You’re still concerned with the machine, not our safety. Why we followed you, I’ll never know, but I’m not going to walk into a suicide room for the sake of fiddling with a goddamn computer.”

Calvin turned, and began to move down the hall.

“Fool.”, Jason said as Calvin left.

The lab door stood in front of the remaining group. The halls remained silent, but the room behind the door echoed with the sounds of grinding mechanics and the rush of conveyors.

Jason opened the doors, and his senses were overwhelmed by a unusual, terrible odor. It’s scent could only be described as a mix of iron, burnt rubber, and rotted skin.

It had been two hours since the H.G.C. malfunctioned, and the bodies had piled up beyond expectation. Jason began to stumble over organic debris and lifeless abominations as he rushed to the H.G.C.’s control. What limbs belonged to some of the personnel was difficult to tell.

“If any killer comes out of that machine, or through the door”, Jason said. “Shoot it dead. Don’t be wasteful with ammunition, either.”

The others nodded, and Jason made his way to the end of the room. Once he cleared most of the bodies, he began to sprint. As he neared close, he could see that the screen was a mess of text, code, and commands. It was near-impossible to decipher any of it.

He mashed delete keys, shut-down controls, reverse commands, even shot at the power generator numerous times. Not a single action even stunned the machine. He continued to hammer the controls, only out of frustration. Hopelessness began to flow over him, then fear, as he heard gunshots erupt from the other end of the room. He slowly turned his head up, to see that a different text had appeared on the screen:

[DO YOU THINK YOU CAN PLAY GOD?]

It was displayed in small, green letters, surrounded by a box centered on the screen. The display surrounding it was still in chaos, but the words were completely clear. Once Jason read the text, it was replaced:


[DO YOU THINK THIS IS YOUR PLACE? YOUR CREATIONS?]

[NO……]

Though they were only computerized words, Jason felt as though they spoke to him. It could’ve been madness setting over him, but a voice echoed through mind as he continued to read the H.G.C.’s messages.

[I AM GOD, HERE]

[THESE ARE MY CHILDREN]

[THIS IS MY HEAVEN]

Jason heard the rest of the group begin to scream for him. The ravenous humanoids were generating quicker, by the sounds of it. He had to stop the machine, run for his safety, or perhaps end his life right then. Just as the pressure began to reach a critical level, the machine typed once more:

[AND THIS PLACE WILL BE YOUR HELL]

“It already is”, Jason thought to himself. He looked towards the ground, and spotted the nearest corpse. It was, for sure, of a researcher. Jason recognized him, but couldn’t put down his name exactly. He turned from the computer, and approached the body. After staring at its figure for about ten seconds, the longest he had felt in his life, he moved to act.

He lifted the body, and ran towards the nearest chamber of the machine. Then, he tossed the body inside.

A loud, grinding noise came from the chamber, and the belt slowed for a small moment. Jason looked back at the group, and knew the opportunity at hand. Jason continued.

He picked up any body or limb he could carry, and tossed them among the H.G.C.’s other chambers and tools. Connor and Ronan began to understand his idea, and joined in effort. The crushing of bones and compacting of flesh in the machine began to overtake the sounds of the belt, which continued to stutter and slow. Blood splatted across the room from the machine, both from the grounded bodies and the H.G.C.’s supply. After seconds, the coats of the three men were painted with red and small shavings of flesh.

A few more gunshots sounded about the room, and the belt then slowed to an abrupt stop. The group took a breath of slight relief, which was overshadowed by the fact that they were still deep within the facility. Jason noticed that though the machine had stopped, its power supply still ran at full force, and its control screen was still lit with text and symbols.

Error messages flooded about the H.G.C.’s computer. Jason could make out a few reading “BELT SPACE ERROR” and “JAM LEVELS CRITICAL”, but the messages were still too disorganized. He was about to turn away, until the text began to disappear, word by word. He suspected the machine was powering down from the errors. The screen made space for a single, final message:

[EVEN AS I DIE, MY CHILDREN WILL FOLLOW]

[BUT HERE, YOU WILL BE BURIED]

The power supply began to flicker, and then began to glow an extreme brightness. A shaking pressure built across the room. It was obvious to the group what was happening, in which they began to sprint for the elevator.

Jason and Ronan were oblivious to the fact that Reyna had been injured again, and much more severely. Rather than a wound to the arm, she had been cut in the neck by two nails, and had been losing blood since they ran from the testing room. Clarice had witnessed the injury, but had no means of treating it on the spot, and was occupied in holding the creatures back as the others operated.

As the group was reaching the elevator, Reyna fell behind, and then fell to the floor. Ronan turned to grab her, but a group of the creations were already approaching behind. Ronan knew he would die too, helping her. He didn’t look back as he ran to the elevator. As the elevator doors closed, however, the group couldn’t help but see her be torn apart.

As the elevator opened to the upper hallways, Jason had realized his speculation to be true: The creations had spread to the upper levels. As the group ran towards the nearest exit, screeches and growls sounded throughout the halls. They sounded distant, though they were on the same floor. They would be found soon, no doubt.

A massive, quaking explosion sounded from the lower floor.

None of the researchers had any intentions of recovering any recordings, research findings, or even personal belongings. The blood on their coats and images in their memory had made escape the only objective in sight.

At the end of the final hall, the ladder towards the surface appeared in sight.

When the group turned a corner, a creation struck Connor, sending him to the ground. The creature went on him, clawing at his neck and chest while sounding a terrible scream. Connor managed to reach for his gun quick enough, and shot the creature clear in the chin, sending it back. From the sounds of the halls, more were coming, and Connor’s wounds were painfully critical.

The rest of the group ran for the ladder, while Jason watched Connor in his last moments. He only remained on the floor, breathing heavily, watching the hall ahead. He looked back at Jason once, and stared for a moment. After glancing down the hall, which must’ve held a horde of sprinting creations, he spoke his last words toward Jason:



“They are false.”

Jason ran for the ladder at the hall’s end, and heard a burst of frantic bullets.

Jason expected to be blinded by sunlight when he stepped out, but his eyes were greeted with grey, clouded skies. Ronan and Clarice were already above, waiting for him. Calvin was also present, who was expected to be gone already. Jason didn’t think of it much, as he had to immediately seal the cover to the facility. He placed the steel plate over the manhole, and barred it shut. He even grabbed nearby rocks in the field to weigh it down. Soon after the entrance hole was covered, hands could be heard from the opposite side, banging at the cover.

The group stood in silence for some time. No one had a clear idea of what to say, even Jason.

Jason began to think about Connor, and how he was disregarded for his insanity. He may have been the most daring of the group, to examine everything so closely. Jason wondered if he should’ve done the same. He turned away from the facility entrance, and looked at Calvin.

“Look, I’m sorry I left you, okay?”, Calvin said. “I just made it up about a minute ago, and heard you coming down the hall. I haven’t even even tried to contact anyone yet.”

Jason nodded, and looked at Ronan and Clarice, who both gave blank looks back.

“I’d forgive you,”, Jason said. “if the conditions were different. But we both know that wouldn’t be the smart choice.”

Jason drew his gun, and shot Calvin clear in the forehead. Clarice screamed at the attack, and she was shot directly after. They both immediately fell, with no struggle. Ronan stood still, shaking, completely lost with the gun aimed to him. Another second past, and then Ronan took two shots to the head as well.

Jason dropped his gun to the grass, when the three bodies lied. Their skulls were nearly divided apart from the shots. They had died instantly.

Jason didn’t know how long he’d been deceived. It could’ve been since the beginning, when they escaped to the upper level. It could’ve been while they were in the H.G.C. lab, when he was turned to the computer. Perhaps it was another moment entirely, but it didn’t matter to him. Connor, despite his madness, had been correct.

They were false.

Credit To – Emeryy (Richard S.)

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Snap Man

October 20, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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Nightmares.

I never really understood them because I never had them. This is why when I did, I was surprised. It was like all of the horrors of reality seeped into my brain with no way of getting out.

At first, I didn’t even know they were nightmares. I would be watching a man from a third perspective. I never saw his face because he was always turned away from me but from what I did see, he was handsome. He had straight black hair, about 6’2’’ and looked fairly toned. He was always wearing a black suit with a red tie and it was nice and sunny outside. The birds were chirping and there was a slight breeze. I would see him walking on the sidewalk trying to hail down a cab. Every time one would stop for him, everything became silence and turned dark – then there was a snap. I don’t know why but whenever I hear that, it sent a shiver down my spine. It’s not like anything else happens, just a snap.

Now this was a recurring dream, happening about once or twice a week. Each dream was almost exactly the same. The only difference was that a different cab would pull up… and the snap would grow a little louder. A few weeks of continuously having this dream went by. I was in bed one night, thinking if I would have “the dream” again. The low hum of my fish tank kept me awake for a little while until I slowly drifted to sleep. The first thing I saw was the man. The dream carried out like usual. Almost. Everything played up perfectly but it seemed the man was walking towards me instead of away like he usually did. Despite the fact that he was facing my direction, I couldn’t actually see his face. There was an oddly placed shadow that surrounded it like a mask.

A yellow cab pulled up from the distance, he stepped inside and it got dark. There was silence. It was the sort of unnerving silence that you get right before something bad was going to happen. It was like the calm before a terrible storm. Nothing happened. I waited and waited but all I saw was darkness and all I could hear was empty silence. Some time went by until I finally heard the snap. Or was it? It sounded more like knocking… and it was getting more frequent. I woke up when the doorbell rang. Turning over to look at the time, it read 4:57. “What can someone possibly want at this time of night?” I asked to myself.

After quickly pulling on a pair of track pants and a t shirt, I cautiously headed down the stairs. There was a small stream of light flowing through the frosted window on the front door from a dim streetlamp outside. The light reflected onto the floor illuminating the hallway. After getting downstairs, I felt the coolness of the tiles under my bare feet. I got to the door but didn’t see anybody. Whoever it was must have left. I turned back around to go upstairs when something got my attention – I couldn’t see the top. It was as if someone put up a black blanket ending just above the last step. I shrugged it off assuming it was my grogginess getting the better me. However, I was wrong. Halfway up the stairs, I noticed I no longer making any progress. I would walk up one step, then the next, but never actually moved forward. It was as if the stairs expanded infinitely into nothingness. Then I heard the snap. I slowly turned around and saw the shadow of the handsome man in my dream. There was only one problem though…

His head was snapped upside-down. His eyes were just shells in a pitch black socket with a crimson liquid dripping from the bottom. He also razor sharp teeth, dripping with his saliva. I turned back around and began sprinting up the stairs, still without making progress. I heard him dragging his body up behind me which made me sprint harder. However, whatever blackness was at the top of the stairs prevented me from getting there. I heard him get closer and closer until I felt a tap on my back that sent me into a panic. Quickly spinning around, I was surprised to see nothing there. I must have been daydreaming. One thing caught my eye though. There was what looked like a note taped to the outside of the front door window. Recalling what just happened, I didn’t remember the note being there. Silently walking back down the stairs, I headed towards this note. I looked around to see if once again, anyone was there. Nothing.

I slowly reached for the handle which was ice cold when I touched it and unlocked the door. Now outside, I felt the cool fall breeze upon my unprotected arms. I grabbed the note from the door and looked at the paper. It was crumpled up and the writing looked like a 4 year old wrote it. “Look up” were the only two words scribbled on it. My face turned white. When I lifted my head up, the door slammed shut locking me outside. Rising up from the bottom of the door was the man in the suit. He looked exactly the way he did when I saw him on the stairs. Slowly lifting up his hand, he waved, taunting me. He then turned around and walked towards the stairs. Realizing what he was about to do, I screamed.

I don’t think I ever screamed that loud before. I screamed until my face turned red – but nothing. It was silent. All I could hear was the rustle of leaves that were scattered all over the ground. I tried to turn the handle – it was still locked. After slamming the note back on the door, I turned my back against it and began to sob. Whatever nightmare I was in, I wanted out. Then I heard it.

Snap.

Snap.

I tried for the door once again. This time, it opened with ease. After opening it, I felt everything get colder. That didn’t make sense though – it was much colder outside than it was inside. Pushing the thought out of my mind, I ran upstairs towards my parent’s room. When I reached it, the door was open. I knocked on it but got no response.

I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the bedroom. It was too dark to see anything and conveniently enough, the lights are right next to the bed. I walked towards the bed and saw the silhouette of two people in awkward positions lying on the bed. Both of them. Both my parents. How, how could he have done this to them. Their heads, barely visible in the darkness, were snapped upside-down. Their eyes were just shells in a pitch black socket. They both had razor sharp teeth, dripping with their saliva. All around the bed were dark stains. I knew what they were but I tried not to think about it. My dad made a small gurgling sound. I couldn’t handle it anymore. Darkness consumed me as I fell to the ground and passed out.

I woke up in bed. Looking around, I was relieved to see it was just a sick, twisted dream. It was 7:54. I put on my school clothes and headed downstairs to have some breakfast. While I sat down eating at the dimly lit table, I realized my parents weren’t up yet. I shrugged it off remembering that they both worked late last night. After breakfast, I got all my books and headed down the hall. While walking, I noticed something up ahead that made me stop dead in my tracks.

There was a crumpled note, taped to the outside of the door.

Credit To – ItzaMeLuigi

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Foreverness

October 14, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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Eliza was in her bed upstairs. Mother cleaned her up. She made her look very pretty. Like sheʼs sleeping.

I donʼt know why we didnʼt expect this to happen. Not because of the way she was. More because of what we did to her.

My brother James and I, we always knew tell there was something unusual about her. When she was born, she never once cried. Mother and Father thought she may have had scarlet fever. Dr. Coffett, our family doctor, made house calls regularly for the first four years of her life. I overheard him telling my parents what he thought was wrong with her. He called it “Neurasthenia”. He thought it seemed to explain her symptoms: the quietness, the staring straight across the room, never seeming to notice you even if you were right in front of her. And the long bouts of mumbling after Mother put her to bed at night.

I was five when she was born. James was nearly seven. What was odd was that our entire family has chestnut brown hair, but Elizaʼs grew in blonde.

As far as Eliza and I went, we werenʼt very alike at all. Apart from the way we look (my eyes are Kelly green, and Elizaʼs were steel gray, as Father put it), I was always told I was bold, the adventurer type. Mr. Ainsworth, my schoolteacher, once told me, “Martha, you got a lotta gumption. Thatʼs a rare thing for a girl to have. You put that to good use, youʼll be all right.” One of my favorite things to do was climbing trees as high as I could go. Iʼd leave a marker at the spot (usually a ribbon), and return to see if I could climb higher. I always tried to get Eliza to come out to see if sheʼd be a good climber like me, but she’d never listen.

No one in the family knew if she would ever change. We wondered how she would get on in the world as a grown-up if she never spoke to anyone or asked for help. Once I overheard Mother and Father talk about sending Eliza away. To a special school if she didnʼt come out of whatever she was in.

To our surprise, she did. Even stranger than her behavior was how abruptly it stopped after four years. Like coming out of a dream, she transformed. Once sullen and absent, she suddenly became a lively and sociable girl. It was Christmas Day.

Father had gone out all day Christmas Eve, and came back with gifts for the three of us. We were to wait until morning for them. James and I argued. Eliza said nothing.

Christmas morning arrived. The three of us went downstairs to join Mother and Father for breakfast. Ham, eggs, and tea, our Christmas tradition. After breakfast, we went into the living room and waited on the couch. Father had us close our eyes, and placed the gifts in our hands. James was given a brass pocket compass. The arrow quivered as he smiled down at it. I got a jade necklace. The cloudy green stone was sanded in the shape of a heart. I fell in love with it. Eliza, however, did not have anything put in her hands. Father said, “Eliza, open your eyes.” We looked. Father was holding a kitten. Tawny brown, with faded white stripes and gray-green eyes, the tiny thing looked up at Eliza as her eyes filled with tears. “Oh Father, thank you! Thank you!” she sobbed, kneeling on the floor as the kitten tottered over to her. We all looked at each other. We couldnʼt remember the last time Eliza had spoken of her own accord.

As I watched her cradle the kitten, I smiled. I couldnʼt help but marvel at the look she had in her eyes as she stared at the kitten’s gray-green ones.

Sometimes, I would look in her eyes, and see something that made my spine tingle. I couldnʼt always see it. But sometimes I could. It was darkness. Some deep abyss in her black pupils, something that made me think of only one word: foreverness. I couldnʼt stand looking at them for too long. James saw it too. Once, I tried to explain it to Mother. She smacked me on the behind and told me I was a sinner.

But now, watching her, I saw something different. There was some happiness, unearthly happiness in her pupils. The darkness wasnʼt there. In fact, I felt like I could see light coming from them, like a glowing sun.

She named it Eirene. None of us knew where on earth she had gotten the name from. Eliza said she read it at school.

From then on, Eliza and Eirene were rarely without one another. The two would sleep, eat, and sometimes bathe together. Eliza constantly tried to bring Eirene to school, only to be caught by my Mother or Father.

For two years she beamed when she was with the cat, and sobbed when it had to stay outside because it had gotten ear mites or something. In two years, we nearly forget how Eliza used to be. We were happy. Until Eliza fell ill.

Like a plague of locusts, the darkness that once surrounded her swarmed in again. The hours of idle staring, the incoherent muttering, and the sinister, cavernous look in her eyes returned. She began ignoring our parents and had to be forced out of bed to school. The only difference was that the darkness she emitted wasnʼt quite as dark as before. At least not when she had Eirene.
We were quickly trained to respond to her removed looks and sinister demeanor by shooing Eirene into the room, while we watched from the doorway. Eliza would notice the cat, and her eyes would glass over. Her brow uncrossed. She smiled at the little thing, cradling it in her arms.

Dr. Coffett determined her Neurasthenia had been addled by a nasty gastrointestinal infection. He would treat her as best he could, but we were to watch her for signs she was getting worse. Eliza was confined to her bed.

For weeks she remained as she was, never quite cheerful but never distraught either. Eirene stayed upstairs with her, unless she needed to go outside for the bathroom.

It was one of these times when it happened. I was with Mother and Father in the kitchen, while James was in the front yard. Eirene was at the back door, meowing gently. Her brown tail quivered, a sign that she needed to go out. “Martha, would you mind taking Eirene out to the woods?” Mother asked. I got up from my homework and strode to the back door.

At the border where our backyard met the woods, I sat on the grass, looking up at the sky. It was bright blue, almost devoid of clouds. I tried to find shapes every time one happened by. It must have been so warm, the grass so soft, I fell asleep.

BANG

I jumped up from the grass, looking around wildly, to see James near the back of the house. He saw me and grinned. “Hey Martha, didnʼt see you there!” he said.

“James what are you doing?” I yelled at him. “You scared me half to death!”

“Iʼm sorry, but like I said, I didnʼt see you.” He was holding Fatherʼs rifle, the tip still smoking.

“You can be really rotten sometimes.” I glanced over at the woods. “Whereʼs Eirene?”

“What?”

“Eirene, James!” I shouted, a panic rising inside me. “Eirene, I took her out here to the woods! Where is she?”

Jamesʼ face went white. “I…I donʼt know…” He looked over at the woods.

Without another word I sprinted into the trees. “WHERE DID YOU SHOOT?” I screamed, searching the brush covered floor.

“Uh…over there!” he shouted, “Somewhere over there!”

I didnʼt need to look where he was pointing, though. My eyes caught a brown gray mass near the base of an oak tree. I skidded to my knees. Eirene was lying there, panting, red muck clinging to the fur on her left side. Her legs twitched, and her eyes stared up at her forehead. Seeing me, she meowed.

James ran up to my side. “Oh…no…” he said. “Oh no, oh no, what did I do?”

Eireneʼs breathing quickened, became more shallow. We both kneeled there, frozen, watching blood dribble out of her side and disappear under the leaves. She looked up at me. I saw pain and fear there, like a fear of something ominous, something inevitable. Then they lolled back to their place, looking straight ahead, and stopped.

At that moment, adrenaline rushed through me, driving out my frozen shock. I scooped Eirene up and bolted out of the woods to the house. Maybe it was the tears burning my eyes or my concentration on that back door I had to reach, but I didnʼt see Eliza watching me from her bed behind the upstairs window.

*

Dr. Coffett arrived later that afternoon. Eliza had been overcome with a bout of vomiting, only this time she started vomiting blood. Dr. Coffett told us this had to do with ulcers in the lining of her stomach.

Eirene was wrapped in linen and placed in a shoebox. Mother asks us not to tell Eliza what had happened. She didnʼt want her condition getting any worse.

We could smell the vomit from her room. It seemed to float through the entire house. She made horrible retching sounds through the evening. Mother and Father and Dr. Coffett stayed up there with her. We all wondered why she didnʼt ask for Eirene.

At 10:16, and as crickets and peepers chirped outside, Dr. Coffett came down the stairs. “Iʼm very sorry to have to tell you this,” he said to James and I, “but your little sister has died. I know you both loved her very much, and I know she loved you as well.” With that, he donned a black bowler hat and left without a goodbye.

James and I went silently up the stairs to Elizaʼs room. It was just opposite Jamesʼ. Inside, Mother and Father were leaning over Elizaʼs bed, crying. Mother beckoned us in for a final goodbye, and there we all wept.

Sleep didnʼt come easily to me that night. Mother and Father told us they were leaving her in her bed for the night, and would make arrangements for her tomorrow. I laid in bed for what felt like hours, until finally, I slept.

I woke up. Not knowing why though, the house seemed quiet. I stared off into the pitch black, waiting to fall back into sleep.

Martha…

My stomach dropped. Did I really hear something? Was it my name? My spine tingled as I pricked my ears up, waiting for anything.

Martha…

My breath caught in my throat. I heard that, clearly, drifting into my room from down the hall where Elizaʼs and Jamesʼ bedrooms were. A door creaked open, and with it, an acrid smell wafted into my room. I choked. The smell was metallic, like that brown rusty water we sometimes get in the drinking fountain at school. My eyes had adjusted to the dim of the room, helped along by the moonlight casting in through the window behind me. I stared, transfixed, at the open door. Beyond it, I couldnʼt see. But I could hear…something…

shhhook

shhhook

My ears strained to pick up the sound. My sweat chilled me as it soaked the linen of my pajamas and grew cold. The metallic smell grew stronger, stinging my nostrils. I gagged, but my eyes never left the doorway.

shhhook

shhhook

The sound was growing louder. My body was pressed against the backboard, trembling. I tried to scream for my parents, but only a hoarse squeaking left me.

shhhook

shhhook

It was right outside my room. The smell was making my head spin. It was a familiar smell, but worse than I had ever known it. This made me realize what it was. When I realized, I let out a high-pitched moan. My throat dried up.

It was the smell of vomit, saturated with blood.

Eliza dragged herself around the doorway. She was wearing the nightgown we had dressed her in. The white fabric was covered in a gray and red mess. Curdled chunks of food and bits of intestine dripped from her chin. Her face was ashen-white and sunken, and her blonde hair was stuck around her mouth. But her eyes frightened me more than anything. The steel gray irises of her eyes were whited over from the hours of disuse, but her pupils were blacker than anything I could have ever imagined. She dragged herself by the arms along the floor, leaving a trail of steaming vomit and blood behind her. She reached my bed, and slowly pulled herself up over the side, never taking her eyes off me.

Martha…

I held my breath, knowing if I breathed again, the full power of that odor would kill me right here.
She yanked my bedsheets as she hoisted herself on top of me, closer…closer…

Now sheʼs here, inches from my face, that smell of decay burning my eyes, the red and gray stew spilling onto my chest and neck. I stared into her eyes.

In them I saw nothing. I saw the coldest, outermost limits of foreverness. I saw the void.

You…killed her…

“No!” I screamed, “I didnʼt kill her! I didnʼt, please! I didnʼt see James had the gun! Iʼm sorry! I didnʼt mean to let her die! Please! PLEASE!

This last word I screamed. Her pupils grew bigger, grew around me, swallowed me whole, and I fell out of the universe and into the abyss, forever.

“Wake up…” My Fatherʼs voice. “Martha, wake up…”

I opened my eyes. I was staring at a ceiling. My ceiling. In front of it were my Mother and Father. They looked down at me, concerned, as I groggily tried to put words together. “You had a bad dream, sweetheart,” said my Mother. “You were crying.” I swiveled my head. My wall. I swiveled it back. The underside of my bed.

“Eliza…she was here…” I said, trying to fight off dizziness.

“No, sweetheart, sheʼs in her room.” Mother starts to tear up. “I know how hard this must be for you. Itʼs hard for all of us. But weʼre still a family, and we still love each other.”

“Would you like to sleep in our bed tonight?” asked my father. “Come on, honey, letʼs go.” He picks me up, my hands absently reaching around his neck to hang on.

Lying between the two of them, their warm bodies holding me in place, I canʼt think of anything but sleep.

*

Sunlight poured in the windows when I woke up. I looked down to the end of the bed at an unfamiliar wall, and an unfamiliar door. Then I noticed my parents on either side of me. The fuzzy memory of being carried came back to me. With that, the dream came back. Eliza was alive. She was in my room. I fell into her eyes. I canʼt remember anything more than that.

I slid to the foot of the bed, and hopped off, careful not to wake my parents. I tiptoed down the hall, past my room, and stopped outside Elizaʼs. There she was, lying on her bed with her eyes closed, in her clean white nightgown. I sighed.

Turning around, I walked into Jamesʼ room. I wanted to wake him to tell him about my dream, and ask him if he wanted to come with me outside to pick flowers for Eliza before my parents wake up. That would make them happy.

“James, wake up,” I said, pulling off the covers, “I want to tell you ab-”

James was lying on his back. His eyes were gouged out. His jaw was ripped halfway off his face, leaving him with a gaping openmouthed scream.

I stepped back. My knees buckled, and I hit my head on the foot of his bed. The world swam in front of me as I lay there on the floor. I stared out through the door into Elizaʼs room, where I saw her lying there, her head turned towards me. She had a smile on her face, and her eyes were open. In her black pupils I saw a deep abyss. It made me think of a word: foreverness.

Credit To – Colin’s Home for the Damned

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